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After Dark

After the Quake

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Dance Dance Dance

The Elephant Vanishes

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Kafka on the Shore

Killing Commendatore

Norwegian Wood

South of the Border, West of the Sun

Sputnik Sweetheart

The Strange Library

A Wild Sheep Chase


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle NONFICTION

Absolutely on Music

(with Seiji Ozawa)

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir



Copyright © 2020 by Haruki Murakami

English-language translation copyright © 2021 by Haruki Murakami

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Originally published in Japan as Ichininsho Tansu by Bungei Shunju Ltd., Tokyo, in 2020. Copyright © 2020 by Haruki Murakami.


Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photograph on this page by Ulana Switucha / Alamy

Some stories first appeared in the following publications: “Cream” first appeared in The New Yorker (January 2019), “On a Stone Pillow” first appeared in Freeman’s (October 2020), “Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova” first appeared in Granta (August 2019), “With the Beatles” first appeared in The New Yorker (February 2020), and “Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey” first appeared in The New Yorker (June 2020).

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Murakami, Haruki, [date] author. | Gabriel, Philip, [date] translator.

Title: The first person singular : stories / Haruki Murakami ; translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.

Other titles: Ichininsho Tansu. English

Description: First edition. | New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2021. | “This is a Borzoi book”

Identifiers: LCCN 2020028991 | ISBN 9780593318072 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780593318089 (ebook)

Classification: LCC PL856.U673 A2 2021 | DDC 895.63/5—dc23

LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/​2020028991

Ebook ISBN 9780593318089

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Cover photograph by Brent Landreth / Alamy

Cover design by Chip Kidd




On a Stone Pillow

Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova

With the Beatles

Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey


The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection

First Person Singular


So I’m telling a younger friend of mine about a strange incident that took place back when I was eighteen. I don’t recall exactly why I brought it up. It just happened to come up as we were talking. I mean, it was something that happened long ago. Ancient history. On top of which, I was never able to reach any conclusion about it.

“I’d already graduated from high school then, but wasn’t in college yet,” I explained. “I was what’s called an academic ronin, a student who fails the university entrance exam and is waiting to try again. Things felt kind of up in the air,” I went on, “but that didn’t bother me much. I knew that I could get into a halfway-decent private college if I wanted to. But my parents had insisted that I try for a national university, so I took the exam, knowing all along that it’d be a bust. And, sure enough, I failed. The national university exam back then had a mandatory math section, and I had zero interest in calculus. I spent the next year basically killing time, as if I were creating an alibi. Instead of attending cram school to prepare to retake the exam, I hung out at the local library, plowing my way through thick novels. My parents must have assumed that I was studying there. But, hey, that’s life. I found it a lot more enjoyable to read all of Balzac than to delve into the principles of calculus.”

At the beginning of October that year, I received an invitation to a piano recital from a girl who’d been a year behind me in school and had taken piano lessons from the same teacher as I had. Once, the two of us had played a short four-hands piano piece by Mozart. When I turned sixteen, though, I’d stopped taking lessons, and I hadn’t seen her after that. So I couldn’t figure out why she’d sent me this invitation. Was she interested in me? No way. She was attractive, for sure, though not my type in terms of looks; she was always fashionably dressed and attended an expensive private girls’ school. Not at all the kind to fall for a bland, run-of-the-mill guy like me.

When we played that piece together, she gave me a sour look every time I hit a wrong note. She was a better pianist than I was, and I tended to get overly tense, so when the two of us sat side by side and played I bungled a lot of notes. My elbow bumped against hers a few times as well. It wasn’t such a difficult piece, and, moreover, I had the easier part. Each time I blew it, she had this “Give me a break” expression on her face. And she’d click her tongue—not loudly, but loud enough that I could catch it. I can still hear that sound, even now. That sound may even have had something to do with my decision to give up the piano.

At any rate, my relationship with her was simply that we happened to study in the same piano school. We’d exchange hellos if we ran into each other there, but I have no memory of our ever sharing anything personal. So suddenly receiving an invitation to her recital (not a solo recital, but a group recital with three pianists) took me completely by surprise—in fact, had me baffled. But one thing I had in abundance that year was time, so I sent off the

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