After Dark – Haruki Murakami

After Dark

Only the second of Murakami’s books I have read, the sense of atmosphere in both (I read South of the Border, West of the Sun earlier in the year), is intense. In this novel which is best read “after dark”, the story takes place during one early morning in the city in Tokyo between the hours of midnight and 7am. There are no trains between these hours, anybody relying on public transport is in effect stuck in the city until morning.

19 year old Mari sits in an all night diner, reading and whiling away the time until the first train home. She is interruped by a boy who she knows vaguely through her sister. They talk, he leaves. She is interrupted again and finds herself helping out with a difficult situation at a nearby “love house”. Each chapter takes place at a progressively earlier hour of the morning and there is a palpable shift in atmsophere through these different parts of the night. I think we all have our experiences of the early hours of the morning, have at some stage been out all night and sat in one of those diners. For several years I periodically did night shifts in a quiet often eerie hospital. I can certainly relate to the night, the separate identity each hour claims, the different feelings each evokes. Murakami did an amazing job of recreating this for me.

The familiar themes of jazz, only children and cats appear in this story and well as the surreal element which in this case was Mari’s sister Eri. Eri spends most of the story sleeping as she has voluntarily been for the previous two months. Beautiful, untouchable…. and observed both by the reader through a series of “scene shots” and camera angles and by somebody we sense is less than friendly.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about the surreal aspect of Murakami’s writing. Intriguing definitely but seems to create more questions than answers. What I do love is how he can take something apparently simple such as a routine conversation and make it come alive with possibilities – how he instills a touch of magic into the mundane, a sense of the offbeat.

I can’t wait to experience another of his stories.

I read this book for the Japanese Literature 3 challenge the What’s in a Name challenge. and the Lost in Translation challenge

Published: 2007, 208 pages
translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin

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11 responses to “After Dark – Haruki Murakami

  1. I was very impressed by After Dark when I read it. I love the characteristic Murakami touches that you point out. I too am unsure about his surreal quality but I do highly enjoy it; if I remember correctly Eri’s condition is similar to that of a character in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (I’ve noticed that Murakami often recycles and reworks the same themes and stories).

  2. I love Huraki Murakami, but I haven’t read this one. I am so pleased to hear that this is good. Kafka on the Shore has been my favourite so far, but it is very weird! I look forward to reading many more!

  3. I love how he turns the mundane into something magical, too. I was initially so puzzled by the situations he creates that I was completely frustrated; now I suspend my disbelief and relish in conversations with others who have read him.

    I’m still puzzled by the sleeping girl. Who is she? One reader suggested she’s the “alter ego” of our heroine, which seems plausible to me. But, I have to reread it as I did Kafka on The Shore, to become clearer in what I suppose.

  4. I have yet to read anything by this author, but I’ve heard good things about his books. I like intense books, so I’ll keep this one in mind.

  5. Claire – interesting isn’t it, the recycling of themes. I noticed a few similarities just in the two I’ve read so far and am sure there are plenty of subtle things I’ve missed. The Wind-Up-Bird Chronicle sounds like one of his more popular books, I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Jackie – It is good – plenty of atmosphere! I suspect it may not be as weird as some of his others. Think I have eased in gently with my choices so far. I will remember Kafka on the Shore when I’m feeling braver..

    Bellezza – I can understand your initial frustration, I felt a bit like that at the end of South of the Border, West of the Sun. There was so much more I wanted explained! But what you say is good advice, I’m enjoying opening my mind a bit and seeing where it takes me. I love hearing other readers thoughts as well. The idea of the alter ego is really interesting considering the pivotal part the sleeping girl plays..

    Anna – I’ll be keen to hear your thoughts if you do read it. This one is not too long so maybe a good one to start with. Especially wonderful for night owls which I’m not unfortunately!

  6. Thanks for your comment on mine

    I enjoy Murakami – the last one I read was Kafka on the Shore which was particularly good.

    I have yet to read a Bronte – for which I am deeply ashamed!

  7. PS – I’ve added you to my blogroll.

  8. Tom – thank you. That was the first Bronte book I have read so I understand the shame!

  9. After Dark is sooo great! I never had interest with reading before… but because of our English class, I picked this book from a bookstore and started loving reading..

  10. Valerie – how wonderful to be inspired by a book like that. I can understand.. Thanks for stopping by o:)

  11. Pingback: What’s in a name 2 challenge – completed! « A Book Sanctuary

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