“The Ice Man”

More weird fiction recently discussed over at LibraryThing.

Review: “The Ice Man”, Haruki Murakami, trans. Philip Gabriel, 1991.The Weird

This is a strange story that I’m not sure has any symbolic significance. The introductory notes in The Weird say it’s based on a dream by Murakami’s wife. It’s long on details and emotion and short on plot.

A woman, our narrator, is intrigued by an Ice Man she meets in the lounge at a ski resort. What does an Ice Man look like? Pretty much like a human except his hands are frequently covered in frost, and he’s always cold. He’s also always reading in the lounge but that, as far as I can tell, has no significance.

She falls in love and marries the Ice Man against the wishes and advice of family and friends.

He’s kind, healthy, has no dark secrets or strange commandments, and he’s a good provider. As he mentioned, when they first met, he knows everything about his wife’s past and nothing about his own. Ice, he says, seals and preserves the past.

The couple have sex which the narrator describes as going away to a faraway, large chunk of ice, and she likes it. The couple, though, can’t have children.

After a while, the woman proposes a vacation and impulsively suggests the South Pole. This seems to disturb the Ice Man, but he agrees and objects to her plans, after sensing his unease, that they go somewhere warm.

The South Pole they go to is a rather surrealist place. It’s like an out of the way and not very frequently visited resort town.

The narrator tries hard to learn the natives’ language. They love the Ice Man, though, and he learns their lingo quickly.

After three months there, the narrator gets pregnant, and they can’t leave because the airport is snowed in.

She begins to sense her husband is not the Ice Man she married. She also begins to lose her sense of herself. She feels her heart turning to ice.

The story ends with her feeling alone despite her husband’s (or, at least, the current Ice Man’s) continuing kindness. She knows he’s telling the truth when he says he loves her.

The story ends:

But the wind blows his frozen words further and further into the past. And I cry some more, icy tears welling up endlessly in our frozen little home in the far-off South Pole.

Is this a metaphor about a woman regretting her marriage when something changes externally – but not her husband’s attitude or action? She was kind of bored not working and her husband providing for them. Is she not capable of contentment and tries to change the setting of their relationship to her regret? Was the Ice Man’s disquiet at the suggestion of a South Pole vacation because he knows, despite his amnesia, that she’ll change there from the woman he loved? But he still, according to the narrator, loves her. Is this a statement that marriage where the couple effectively has no outside friends or family is unhealthy?

 

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