The Elephant Vanishes

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The Elephant Vanishes
Haruki murakami elephant 9780679750536.jpg
U.S. 1st edition cover
Editor Gary Fisketjon
Author Haruki Murakami
Original title 象の消滅
Zō no shōmetsu
Translator Alfred Birnbaum, Jay Rubin
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Genre Short story collection
Published March 31, 1993 (Knopf
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 327
ISBN ISBN 0-679-42057-6
OCLC 26805691
LC Class PL856.U673 E44 1993

The Elephant Vanishes (象の消滅 Zō no shōmetsu?) is a collection of 17 short stories by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The stories were written between 1980 and 1991,[1] and published in Japan in various magazines then collections. The contents of this compilation was selected by Gary Fisketjon (Murakami's editor at Knopf) and first published in English translation in 1993 (its Japanese counterpart was released later in 2005). Several of the stories had already appeared (often with alternate translations) in the magazines The New Yorker, Playboy, and The Magazine (Mobil Corp.) before this compilation was published.

Stylistically and thematically, the collection aligns with Murakami's previous work. The stories mesh normality with surrealism, and focus on painful issues involving loss, destruction, confusion and loneliness. The title for the book is derived from the final story in the collection.


Many of the stories in the collection have been published previously in Japanese periodicals (not listed here), then translated in literary magazines (mentioned below). The stories are listed in the order in which they appear in the book.

Title Previously published
in English in
"The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday's Women" The New Yorker (updated subsequently as the first chapter of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) 1986
"The Second Bakery Attack" Playboy 1985
"The Kangaroo Communiqué" 1981
"On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning" 1981
"Sleep" The New Yorker 1989
"The Fall of the Roman Empire, the 1881 Indian Uprising, Hitler's Invasion of Poland, and the Realm of Raging Winds" The Magazine (Mobil Corp.) 1986
"Lederhosen" 1985
"Barn Burning" The New Yorker 1983
"The Little Green Monster" Story Magazine 1991
"Family Affair" 1985
"A Window" 1991
"TV People" The New Yorker 1989
"A Slow Boat to China" 1980
"The Dancing Dwarf" 1984
"The Last Lawn of the Afternoon" 1982
"The Silence" 1991
"The Elephant Vanishes" The New Yorker 1985

Additional publication[edit]

While the list above details which stories appeared before the publication of The Elephant Vanishes, many of the stories have also appeared elsewhere more recently:

Theatrical adaptation[edit]

The British theatre company Complicite collaborated with Japan's Setagaya Public Theatre to produce a stage adaptation also entitled The Elephant Vanishes.[2] The production featured three of the stories in Murakami's collection ("Sleep," "The Second Bakery Attack," and the title story). Directed by Simon McBurney and starring a Japanese cast, the play opened in May, 2003, in Tokyo before touring internationally in limited festival runs. The performance was in Japanese with English supertitles.

The show incorporated a great deal of multimedia, which Complicite had traditionally eschewed, but married it with the company's trademark communal storytelling and demanding physical performance style. The eponymous elephant, for example, was represented at one time by a magnified eye on a video screen, and at another time by four live actors bent over office chairs. This combination of technical wizardry and compelling human narrative received high praise from critics, who also cited the play's humor, realism, and dreamlike motion as a fitting tribute to Murakami's prose.[3]

Popular culture[edit]

  • The short story The Elephant Vanishes inspired a research paper[4] on Asian elephants and their impact on the well-being of the rural poor in India.
  • The Second Bakery Attack was used as a scene in Der Eisbär,[5] a German movie starring Til Schweiger, written and co-directed by Granz Henman.
  • The Second Bakery Attack became a basis for an episode of the South Korean film trilogy "Acoustic".

Book information[edit]

The Elephant Vanishes (English edition) by Haruki Murakami; translation by Alfred Birnbaum and Jay Rubin


  1. ^ Full title 象の消滅 : 短篇選集, 1980-1991 (Zō no shōmetsu : tanpen senshū, 1980-1991). See also publication history at Haruki Murakami#Short stories.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ [2][3][4]
  4. ^ [5] Jadhav, S., and M. Barua. 2012. The Elephant Vanishes: Impact of human-elephant Conflict on people's well-being. Health & Place.
  5. ^ IMDB - Der Eisbär