Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > After Dark

After Dark by Haruki Murakami
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Apr 05, 10

bookshelves: fiction, 2010, magical-realism
Read in March, 2010

Ah me I love Murakami. This is only the fifth book of his I've read but they never disappoint. I started with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I read when I lived in Japan. Seemed fitting. Followed up with A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance Dance Dance and Underground, a non-fiction book where he collected and told the stories of survivors from the Tokyo Subway gas attack. I have more on my shelf. I plan to read every single book of his.

After Dark is definitely one of his more approachable books. It was almost "normal". I had thought, when I bought it back in 2008, that it was a collection of short stories set in one night - that's how the blurb reads. It's not, though in a way there are vignettes. Over the course of one night, we follow nineteen-year-old Mari, who doesn't want to go home, as she tries to keep herself awake. She encounters Takahashi, who met her once at the pool several years ago; he has an all-night jam session with his trombone. When a friend of his, Kaoru, who manages a love hotel, needs help with a Chinese prostitute who's been beaten up, Takahashi tells her where she can find Mari, who speaks Chinese. Meanwhile, at her home, her older sister, a beautiful model called Eri, is deeply asleep. There's something deeply disturbing and scary when her unplugged TV comes to life and a masked man watches her through the screen.

So there is a touch of Murakami surrealism here, but only in the Eri scenes. Of course, the conversations the characters have are delightfully Murakami as well, though less bizarre than in some of his other books. The prose is gorgeous, a heavily descriptive style in After Dark that yet manages to be light and airy and somehow sinister at the same time. He has such a way at turning "telling" on its head: he narrates, describes, details, but shows more than he tells. It's subtle, you almost don't notice it at all. So much more is revealed in a simple descriptive sentence than is really told. It's in the telling, in the style. It reads so light, deceptively light.

The atmosphere is rich and vibrant. Tokyo at night - it feels insular and narrow, but real. I remember the pockets, pockets of neon light, pockets of deep shadow. The feeling of being both awake and asleep at the same time. Of being alone amongst so many people. Of being part of a tapestry, or a labyrinth.

This isn't what I expected, it's not as dark or surreal as some of his other books - more dialogue-centred, focused more primarily on interactions between people - but that just meant it wasn't predictable or boring. There's suspense, a feeling of tension, but not the anxious kind. More a feeling of expectation. And of course the mystery is unsolved, and leaves your imagination buzzing with possibilities. Just the way I like it :)
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