Introduction & Overview of The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

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The Elephant Vanishes Summary & Study Guide Description

The Elephant Vanishes Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading on The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami.

Haruki Murakami's “The Elephant Vanishes” was first published in English in the New Yorker in November 1991 and is found in his short story collection The Elephant Vanishes: Stories published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1993. Jay Rubin translated the story from Japanese into English. The short story was also included in the anthology The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories, edited by Theodore Goossen. The Elephant Vanishes: Stories consists of seventeen short stories told in first-person point of view.

Like other stories in this collection, “The Elephant Vanishes” focuses on a strange incident that leaves its protagonist disoriented. An unnamed narrator tells the story of how an aged elephant and its keeper mysteriously disappear one night from his town's elephant house. The narrator, who is the protagonist of the story, recalls the events leading up to the elephant's sudden vanishing, the news coverage of the incident, and the futile efforts of the townspeople to find the elephant and the keeper. He also discusses the strange circumstances of the elephant's disappearance, which indicate that the elephant apparently vanished into thin air. After meeting a magazine editor who is a potential love interest, the narrator ends up talking about how he witnessed the elephant shrinking or the keeper becoming bigger or both on the night of their disappearance, and the story concludes with the bewildered narrator lamenting the loss of the elephant and the keeper. Like other Murakami stories, this one is imbued with a sense of things being out of order in urban, contemporary society, which leaves its characters feeling alienated, disillusioned, and unable to make choices about their lives.

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