In April, Haruki Murakami released “The City and Its Uncertain Walls” (“Machi to Sono Futashikana Kabe”), his first full-length novel in six years. Four months in, the overwhelming reaction from readers and critics in Japan has been a deeply considered “Hmmmm?”

The novel is told in three parts, the first of which is based on Murakami’s 1980 short story of the same title, which he considered a failed work and had hoped to return to one day. In it, a male narrator seeks out a girlfriend from his teenage years, and moves between the real world and a fantasy city surrounded by a very high wall. In part two, the protagonist leaves his job to work in the library of a new town, and in part three, the story returns to the walled city.

According to rankings from distributors Nippan and Tohan, the novel is the top-selling book across genres for the first half of 2023, beating out a guidebook for the latest Pokemon game on Nintendo Switch.