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Fiction

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Opening paragraph:

Eyes mark the shape of the city.

Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature –or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm.

Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city’s moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.

I like the time after dark. When everyone goes to bed and I’m still up on my desk writing or working away. It isn’t a case that I have to succumb to late night working because of my toddlers, although it pretty much seems like the only time I can think clearly these days is after my boys went to bed but even when I was younger it was the same; I feel most alert at night. 😉

I like the tranquillity of the night. I like the soft music that is played in the background of late night radio station after dark. I like the thought that the hours when most people went off to bed, the hours are wholly my own. The night as someone said, can heighten our sense of isolation, and threaten our conception of reality

When I first saw the book, I was reluctant to pick it up because of its dodgy covers (Sputnik Sweetheart’s was more dodgy, yet…) and the possibility of spooky things that are bound to happen after dark (my misconception!). I was happy to find that it is not the case at all.

The novel opens at midnight in Denny’s restaurant in downtown Tokyo. There, Mari Esai sits at the front window by herself, reading a textbook; she intends to wait out the night before taking the train back home. A lanky, amateur jazz trombonist named Takahashi soon enters the restaurant, and sat down on her table. Two years earlier, they met; Takahashi knows her older sister, Eri. Mari consents to him sitting down with her but remains annoyed at his presence during their initial conversation.

Later, Mari is interrupted by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a foreign prostitute has been hurt by a client, and she needs Mari’s help to translate.

Meanwhile Mari’s beautiful sister Eri sleeps a a deep, heavy sleep that is ‘ too perfect, too pure’ to be normal; she has lain asleep for two months. But tonight as the digital clock displays 00:00, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the TV’s plug has been pulled out……

Strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?

Murakami’s After Dark provides snippets about city life (Tokyo, specifically) in the chaotic hours after the sun goes down. Readers are given glimpses of both the terrors and the night creatures who either cannot or do not want to sleep. After Dark is also hypnotic and suspenseful, making the reader continually wonder what might be lurking around the dark corner. This sense of menace in the night is what holds the book together and make this 200 pages a very speedy and delightful read.

Rating: 4/5

Although I read many of Murakami’s book, I am not taken by the abstract scenes provided it serves some purpose. The attempt to enter Eri’s dreams is bizarre but not as his more bizarre incidents that can be found in Kafka on the Shore. I find Murakami is at his strongest when his characters kept their feet on the ground and just talked and reflect. A lot of critics are disappointed with with Murakami’s After Dark and I can see why. Compared to his recent and notable work such as Wind-up Bird Chronicle or Kafka on the Shore, After Dark or Sputnik Sweetheart are considered lightweight, but all agreed that on his worst writing day, Murakami is still better than most other authors.

I, however, beg to differ, Murakami is very good at bringing forth challenging concepts in an easy-to-read and simplistic but satisfying style. We have known Murakami to be a writer who continues to plead for the case of humans, who are lonesome and afraid and do not know what to do. He has amplified this theme by writing about life after dark.

“I think it’s great that you can work hard.” Said Korogi.

“even if I’ve got nothing else going for me?” said Mari.

Korogi smiles without speaking.

Mari thinks about what Korogi said. “I do feel that I’ve managed to make something I could maybe call my own world… over time… little by little. And when I’m inside it, to some extent, I feel kind of relieved. But the very fact I felt I had to make such a world probably mean that I’m a weak person, that I bruise easily, don’t you think? And in the eyes of society at large, that world of mine is a puny little thing. It’s like a cardboard house: a puff of wind might carry it off somewhere.”

Murakami can go chunky novels, and he can do novellas. Strangely though I like Sputnik Sweetheart and After Dark a lot more than his war talk or political awareness surrealism piece, and I look forward to read Norwegian Wood which everybody seems to say, is one of the greatest book they have ever read.

While most of Murakami’s novels provide an ambivalent ending, at least this one offers hope.

I’m reading this for J-Lit 4.

Paperback. [Vintage books 2007] [Library Loot][201 pages], [Contemporary Japan],[finished reading on 7th August 2010].

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “After Dark by Haruki Murakami

  1. great review-I think After Dark is a good choice for someone new to his work as a first read-

    Posted by Mel u | August 22, 2010, 10:30 pm
  2. Really good review.

    I disagree with the other critics who dismiss After Dark because it is lightweight or whatever other reasons they present. Why must an author always write, deep, politically heavy books all the time? I think this shows his versatility rather then any lapse in writing.

    What I loved about AD is that it is a snippet in time and you’re left wondering what happened to the characters during the day. Not everything has to be a big story that answers every question and ties up every string. That’s what I really liked about it – that it carried on living.

    Norwegian Wood is really good, I was surprised by how much I did like it. It might be Murakami trying to write something ‘straight’ but I don’t think he’ll ever really achieve ‘normal’ lol. I really did enjoy it a lot hope you will too. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite Murakami, or a favourite book of mine though, but one I do rate highly.

    Posted by Fiona | August 29, 2010, 12:30 pm
    • Hi Fiona, nice to have you here. I absolutely agree with you. Totally. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to read a short good book in one morning and afternoon and not having the need to go through redundant mundane words and pages just so that the novel appears to be “meaty”.

      Posted by JoV | August 29, 2010, 10:27 pm

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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