‘Sleep’ by Haruki Murakami, Kat Ran Press (2004)

{Ed. Note: This is a guest article from Simon Patterson. Mr. Patterson is the proprietor of Hyraxia Books.}

Sleep” was originally published in the New Yorker and recently adapted for the stage by Complicite, the London-based theater group, and the Setagaya Public Theater of Japan. Considered by many to be Japan’s most popular and influential author, Haruki Murakami tells the story of a woman who ignores conventional wisdom by embracing more than two weeks of sleeplessness (with the aid of Anna Karenina).

As a rare bookseller I get plenty of nice books through the postbox, most unfortunately just get looked over, photographed, catalogued and shelved. I only wish I had time to appreciate each one as I did when I was a collector. Occasionally though, I have to go chasing the books and let them decide when they’re going to be shelved. The Kat Ran Press edition of Haruki Murakami’s Sleep was one such book.

It took me nearly two years of negotiation to get the book; the seller didn’t really want to sell and when the book did finally decide it wanted to leave, it had a hard time getting here. A poorly addressed package found the book returned to the US twice, eventually the seller offered to hand deliver it to London when he next visited. Another seller agreed to receive it at his shop, where it stayed for a couple of weeks until I was next down there. Finally, we were united.

I had to take a look as soon as I got it, I was double-parked but I had to have a look. I had been building up a large Murakami selection over a number of years and Sleep was to be the crowning glory. I couldn’t publish the catalogue without it. I even had a placeholder in the catalogue for it waiting. It took me another four weeks until I was able to bring myself to catalogue it.

The story was originally published in the New Yorker, a publication that proved to be a great vehicle for Murakami and helped progress his position as one of this generation’s greatest writers. It was subsequently published in The Elephant Vanishes [Random House, 1993]. The book is only 64 pages but measures 10 x 7.5 inches, which gives it the semblance more of an important document than a short story. As with many of Murakami’s later works, it has been translated by Jay Rubin, Harvard’s leading expert in Japanese Humanities. It is presented in Giovani Mardersteig‘s Dante (12D) typeface from Michael and Winifred Bixler printed on handmade paper from Twinrocker – The title label is in Max Caflisch‘s Columna (36D). It was printed at the Kat Ran Press by Michael and Katherine Russem. The full leather binding and box-making was undertaken by Claudia Cohen. The circular device on the boards mimics the Gibson etchings and is a device common to a number of Murakami’s works, particularly 1Q84. The book is presented with a single sheet prospectus. The four illustrations are provided by Massachusetts-based John Gibson, who had previously provided lithographs for the Landfall press. The illustrations were printed by Peter Pettengill at the Wingate Studio in New Hampshire, who published limited edition prints of his etchings. An all-American publication.

60 Copies were printed in total. 45 numbered copies were for sale and 15 lettered copies for the book’s production teams, including the author and translator. The lettered copies were not made available for sale, at any cost apparently. And having spoken with Jay Rubin a number of years ago about his copy, I can confirm it’s not for sale. I was unaware of the lettered copies until I read the colophon, but decided my catalogue couldn’t wait the decade or so it would take me to track down the owner’s and persuade one of them to sell! Copy number 34 would have to suffice.

The story itself is a slightly disturbing glimpse into a life without sleep. As the story progresses, the protagonist’s fight against sleep continues and she gradually detaches from her social circles and becomes increasingly obsessed with herself and the pseudo-freedom empty nights permit her. Time becomes less of an element of day to day life, as her existence becomes essentially just a single day. It’s a magical work and a great introduction to Murakami’s perfecting of a post-modern style. As with a number of his works, Murakami draws the reader into the story making him part of it. It is often regarded as one of Murakami’s best short stories, which perhaps might explain Kat Ran Press’s decision to make such a special edition.

Here are a handful of pictures, though as with so many special books it’s impossible to really grasp the book without seeing it.

About the Edition

  • Sleep, a short story by Haruki Murakami with multi-color etchings by John Gibson
  • Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin, Takashima Professor of Japanese Humanities at Harvard University and author of Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words
  • Composed in Dante types by Michael and Winifred Bixler of Skaneateles, New York, the fifty-six pages of Sleep have been printed at Kat Ran Press on handmade Twinrocker papers
  • The four color etchings by John Gibson, whose paintings may be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design (among others)
  • The etchings have been printed by Peter Pettengill and his exemplary staff at Wingate Studio in Hinsdale, New Hampshire
  • The entire edition has been carefully bound in full leather and boxed by Claudia Cohen at her Seattle, Washington, bindery
  • There were sixty copies, of which forty-five were for sale, signed by the author, translator and artist

Pictures of the Edition

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Slipcase
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Slipcase
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Slipcase Macro
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Slipcase Macro
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Book in Slipcase
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Book in Slipcase
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Cover and Spine
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Cover and Spine
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Cover
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Cover
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Macro of Cover
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Macro of Cover
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Sample Illustration
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Sample Illustration #1
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Sample Text Page
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Sample Text Page
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Colophon
Sleep, Kat Ran Press, Colophon

2 thoughts on “‘Sleep’ by Haruki Murakami, Kat Ran Press (2004)

  1. Ho Hum. Another spectacular book from a private press I am barely familiar with. Actually, I vaguely remember an interview with the founder and proprietor of Kat Ran Press (Michael Russem) in which he announced his intent publish a no-hold-barred private press edition of “Sleep” about a year or two ago, just before he turned 30 years of age.

    The Kat Ran Press, now based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a “twin” or kindred spirit private press also located in New England – – – – Scott Vile’s Ascensius Press in Maine. A few astute Books and Vines readers and subscribers may remember that Chris Adamson introduced this press on the old Books and Vines last year, writing an article and review on a stunning private press edition of Henry David Thoreau’s “The Maine Woods”. That book was notable for its beautiful design, flawless presswork, and exceptional quality of materials. Both presses support themselves primarily by doing contract and institutional work, designing and printing catalogues, printing books for other publishers, private libraries and universities, etc. However, when they do decide to design and print a private press book for themselves it is a work of uncompromising quality in a minuscule edition (50 books or fewer) that virtually guarantees most serious collectors will never lay eyes or hands or it.

    The decision of the Kat Ran Press to publish a short story from a highly regarded but little known (in the English-speaking world) Japanese author, as opposed to publishing a more widely recognized and accessible work, is somewhat risky and unconventional but not without precedent. Sidney Shiff did this in the last fifteen years of the Limited Editions Club after he transformed it from a private press for “Everyman” (producing affordable letterpress books for the widest possible audience) into a livres d’artiste private press. Shiff produced private press books of the highest quality costing thousands of dollars (prior to the full scale development of the internet, book search engines and websites, etc.), yet nearly all of them were literary works featuring authors and artists that were not mainstream and had had little, if any, representation in the private press world, i.e, African-American, Latin American, Japanese, Greek, Egyptian, etc.

    The Kat Ran Press edition of “Sleep” appears to be a work in this vein, a book produced to the highest standard with an exceptional Art Deco design, beautiful color etchings from a known modern artist (John Gibson), fine letterpress printing and a custom leather binding with gray and gilt onlays using exceptional materials. It is one of those books which, because of its extremely small limitation of 45 copies for sale and exceptional quality, will distinguish and separate a high-end private press book collection from others.

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