55. City and Its Uncertain Walls (Haruki Murakami)

“City and Its Uncertain Walls” by Haruki Murakami


Haruki Murakami, one of Japan’s most acclaimed contemporary authors, has captivated readers worldwide with his unique blend of surrealism, magical realism, and poignant storytelling. His recent novel, “City and Its Uncertain Walls”, continues this tradition, offering a deep dive into the complexities of urban life and human existence. This novel, released after 43 years, is highly anticipated and promises to deliver the profound insights and imaginative narrative that Murakami is known for.


Main Content

“City and Its Uncertain Walls” explores themes of isolation, the search for identity, and the existential uncertainties of modern life. Set against the backdrop of a city that is as much a character as it is a setting, the novel weaves together various storylines that reflect the fragmented nature of urban existence.

Detailed Overview

The novel opens with a depiction of a sprawling metropolis, teeming with life yet shrouded in a pervasive sense of disconnection. As readers delve deeper, they are introduced to a cast of characters whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.

Excerpt from “City and Its Uncertain Walls”

City and Its Uncertain Walls
City and Its Uncertain Walls

Original Passage:


English Translation:

“In that city, countless alleys intertwined, each filled with innumerable stories. As the man walked through each one, he began to confront his own past. Eri’s figure, appearing in his dreams every night, felt like a piece of the puzzle of his life. Seeking the answer to what her existence meant, the man continued to walk.”


This passage beautifully encapsulates the essence of Murakami’s narrative style, blending the physical journey through a labyrinthine city with the protagonist’s introspective quest for understanding. The intertwining alleys symbolize the complexities of life and the stories within, while the recurring dreams of Eri add a layer of surrealism and mystery. The protagonist’s relentless search for answers highlights themes of existential inquiry and the search for meaning.


In “City and Its Uncertain Walls,” Murakami masterfully weaves a tale that explores the intricacies of human existence through the metaphor of a city. The protagonist’s journey through the city’s alleys serves as both a literal and figurative exploration of his own life, memories, and unresolved questions.


Murakami’s work often delves into the surreal and the profound, and this novel is no exception. The imagery of the city and the enigmatic character of Eri draw readers into a world where reality and illusion blur, compelling them to ponder their own life’s journey and the hidden stories within.

By providing a glimpse into the novel’s thematic depth and narrative style, this excerpt and its analysis aim to spark curiosity and invite readers to immerse themselves in Murakami’s intricate storytelling.

City and Its Uncertain Walls
City and Its Uncertain Walls

Main Characters:

The Protagonist: A middle-aged man grappling with a mid-life crisis. He is a loner who finds himself questioning the purpose and direction of his life. His journey through the city becomes a metaphor for his internal quest for meaning.

Eri: A mysterious woman who appears in the protagonist’s dreams. She embodies the city’s enigmatic allure and becomes a key figure in his search for answers.

The Old Man: A sage-like character who offers wisdom and guidance. His cryptic advice helps the protagonist navigate the city’s labyrinthine streets and his own tangled thoughts.

The Young Girl: Representing innocence and hope, she forms an unlikely bond with the protagonist, reminding him of the beauty that still exists in the world.

Key Themes and Events:

Urban Isolation: Murakami paints a vivid picture of how the density of city life can lead to profound loneliness. The protagonist’s interactions with others often highlight the superficial connections that dominate urban relationships.

Search for Identity: Throughout the novel, characters struggle with questions of identity. The protagonist’s journey is marked by encounters that challenge his self-perception and push him toward self-discovery.

Reality vs. Illusion: The boundary between reality and illusion blurs frequently. Dream sequences and surreal events force readers to question what is real, mirroring the protagonist’s confusion.

Philosophical Musings: The novel is rich with philosophical reflections on life, death, and the human condition. These musings are often delivered through the old man’s dialogues with the protagonist.

Symbolism of the City: The city itself is a powerful symbol. Its towering buildings and endless streets represent the complexity and unpredictability of life. The uncertain walls of the title allude to the barriers we face in understanding ourselves and our place in the world.

Plot Highlights:

Encounter with Eri: The protagonist’s dreams of Eri become increasingly vivid, leading him to seek her out in the real world. This quest drives much of the narrative.

Meeting the Old Man: The old man’s cryptic messages and philosophical insights play a crucial role in guiding the protagonist’s journey.

Revelation and Climax: As the protagonist delves deeper into the city’s mysteries, he uncovers truths about his past and the forces that shape his reality.

Resolution: The novel concludes with the protagonist achieving a sense of peace and acceptance, having navigated the uncertain walls of his mind and the city.


“City and Its Uncertain Walls” is a testament to Haruki Murakami’s literary prowess. It is a novel that challenges readers to reflect on their own lives and the complexities of the world around them. Through its rich characters, intricate plot, and profound themes, the book offers a journey that is both deeply personal and universally relatable.



What is the main theme of “City and Its Uncertain Walls”?
The main theme is the search for identity and meaning in a complex, modern world.

Who is the protagonist of the novel?
The protagonist is a middle-aged man struggling with a mid-life crisis and searching for purpose.

What role does the city play in the novel?
The city is both a setting and a symbol, representing the complexity and unpredictability of life.

How does Murakami explore the theme of isolation?
Through the protagonist’s interactions and experiences, the novel highlights the loneliness that can exist amidst the density of urban life.

What is the significance of the character Eri?
Eri symbolizes the enigmatic allure of the city and plays a key role in the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery.

What philosophical questions does the novel raise?
The novel explores questions about reality, identity, the human condition, and the meaning of life.

How does the novel blend reality and illusion?
Dream sequences and surreal events blur the lines between reality and illusion, reflecting the protagonist’s internal struggle.

What is the climax of the novel?
The climax involves the protagonist uncovering deep truths about his past and the nature of his reality.

How does the protagonist’s journey conclude?
The protagonist achieves a sense of peace and acceptance after navigating the complexities of his mind and the city.

Why is the novel titled “City and Its Uncertain Walls”?
The title reflects the barriers and uncertainties we face in understanding ourselves and the world around us.

Today’s Quiz

Question: What is the primary metaphor used in “City and Its Uncertain Walls” to explore the protagonist’s internal journey?

Answer: The city and its labyrinthine streets serve as a primary metaphor for the protagonist’s internal quest for identity and meaning.

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