Lisabet Sarai's Reviews > After Dark

After Dark by Haruki Murakami
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Jan 24, 2013

it was amazing

Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite authors, so I don't know how I missed this enigmatic gem originally published in 2007. Murakami's worlds offer magical realism, Japanese style, replete with implausible synchronicity, mysterious symbolism, small miracles and the occasional brush with the macabre. AFTER DARK fits this mold, but has more structure than some of his work, as the events and encounters in the book all occur between midnight and dawn.

As some other reviewers have commented, the book has little or no plot. It focuses on a set of characters whose lives criss-cross and then disconnect during the lonely hours of darkness: Mari Asai, a nineteen-year-old student of Chinese who stays out late to escape from her family; Takahashi, an extrovert law student who plays trombone in a jazz band; Kauru, formerly a female wrestler, now the manager of the Alphaville love hotel; Shirakawa, a possibly psychopathic salaryman whose precision masks an anger even he does not understand; and at the center of the tale, Eri Asai, Mari's exquisitely beautiful older sister who has retreated from the world into prolonged slumber. Eri is the only one who sleeps in this tale. The other members of the cast wander, restless, from twenty-four-hour coffee shops to convenience stores, stark, empty office buildings to jazz clubs, without knowing what they seek.

Jazz flows through this tale, both literally and figuratively. Murakami is himself a jazz afficionado, and the whole book reads like some smoky improvisation, slow, raw and sweet enough to bring tears to your eyes but impossible to explain.

Reflection is another theme. Characters peer at themselves in mirrors, struggling to understand why their own faces seem so strange. When they move on, the reflections remain. as though existing in a parallel world.

Murakami's books are about feelings and ideas. In that sense, they're more like poetry than fiction. The atmosphere and the emotions remain after the details of the so-called plot vanished like morning fog. I suspect that the varied moods of his silent, night-time city will haunt me - like his other worlds - for years to come.

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