After Dark by Haruki Murakami

afterdark1After reading my second book by Murakami, I’m nearly ready to add him to the list of favorite authors. Like Norwegian Wood, it’s a masterfully crafted novel engaging the reader in each word that he writes. This is a very different sort of novel from Norwegian Wood though in it’s content. With After Dark, I’ve discovered the bizarre side of Murakami that I hear so much about. Murakami throws us into what is seemingly another dimension, but in reality is only the middle of the night when bizarre things tend to happen. What if we pushed the boundaries of reality just a tad…not enough to really turn this into a dark fantasy, but enough to make the night ethereal, a bit mysterious. 

Murakami has a very unique style of writing with this one. Much of the book is “viewed” almost through a camera lens…with stage directions given. It’s a very voyeuristic novel, bringing us from one situation in the middle of the night with one character, to another situation with some thread of connectivity between the two. It’s really not a novel about much, without much action, but at it’s heart, beyond just the outward content, it’s about so much. It’s about our connections with one another, the strength of those connections, the guilt that lies within, the games we play, the jealousy we feel, the love we feel, the happy times we share, and the sad times we share. It’s a book about the mystery of the night time, the barrier between reality and the imaginable after dark.

We open the novel with a visit to nineteen Mari Asai as she sits in a Denny’s alone reading a novel. She’s soon visited by an old acquaintance who is playing in a band down the street. His name is Takahashi and he once went on a date with her and her sister in high school. The two have a conversation that is characteristic of the novel. It’s just a conversation about catching up which leads to deeper conversation. Not much plot is developed. But it works perfectly. Throughout the novel, we have more crossings between the two in a dark district of Japan. We have some action (involving prostitutes in a love hotel) but mostly it’s just more conversation.

Mari and Takahashi’s conversations bring us to Mari’s sister, Eri Asai. Eri sleeps throughout the novel. That’s really all she does. We enter her bedroom as an observer…not really there, but watching her sleep. She lies peacefully on her pillow, beautiful with her black hair spread across her pillow. Then the tv begins to come on in the room and things get a little creepy. There is a man in the tv sitting in an empty room except for the chair that he is seated on. He stares out of the tv as the picture adjusts, seemingly watching Eri sleep. His face is not visible though due to some strange plastic like substance covering it. Here is where the novel crosses into the ethereal. It’s haunting and wonderful and bizarre all at the same time. 

Like I said, not much happens in this novel, but it doesn’t need to. The stories all begin to connect somewhat, but basically it’s a story about the happenings between midnight and seven AM in a town in Japan. It’s extremely engaging and surprisingly creepy at times. I wasn’t expecting that at all. But then again, there’s always an air of creepiness throughout the night. 

I feel like I haven’t done much justice to this book, but it’s really a hard one to review. My best recommendation is to check it out yourself. While Norwegian Wood still remains my favorite Murakami work, this one is certainly a great contender. I think I’m finally ready for The Wind Up Bird Chronicle now.

This is my last read for Bellezza’s Japanese Reading Challenge, but I still plan on reading one more anyway. I’m going to read Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask.

Dewey wasn’t nuts about this book, but she read it too…so I’m counting it as a 2008 read for the Dewey’s Books Reading Challenge.


13 Responses

  1. Ahh its sitting on my bookshelf! I’d completely forgotton about it, so now I’m excited all over again! Great review, thanks.

  2. One of these days I’m going to read Hurakami. It’s on my list of Things to Do!!

    Great review!!

    I’ll be joining your challenge…I just haven’t had the time to sign up. Another must do before the New Year!

  3. Well, you did it more than enough justice to make me want to get it right now! You know, I tend to forget Murakami when listing my favourite authors, but he’s definitely one of them. And I’ve been missing him lately…I’ll have to try and squeeze in one of his books before the end of the Japanese Lit challenge.

    I can’t wait to hear what you think of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle! Also, don’t forget Kafka on the Shore..that’s my second favourite Murakami so far, and I’m sure you’ll love it too!

  4. I’m going to have to read more Murakami in 2009! Thanks for your review.

  5. I have yet to read any Murakami, but Kafka on the Shore is on my TBR list.

  6. It is a very hard book to review! You did a fine job! I really liked it, though I have a difficult time explaining to anyone why. I read it a few months ago, and I still pick it up, look at it, and think about it when I see it at the bookstore or library.


  7. I love Murakami! And I love this book a lot! And well, Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I think I’ve read all his books (save for the new release this year, I think it’s non-fiction and something to do with running).

    Kafka on the Shore is great. Same with Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Or the others. But I’m rambling. Glad you enjoyed this.

    And have a blessed Christmas to you and your family.

  8. I raved about this book when I reviewed it earlier this year and these many months later it is still one of my favorite reads of the year. I have only read one Murakami novel and two short story collections so it is a bit silly to say this is my favorite Murakami novel, but for now it is and I suspect that due to how much I enjoyed it that it will be the standard by which I compare all the other books of his that I read. The sister’s story line was interesting and, you’re right, creepy, but I would have been just as happy if it had only followed the one character. I just loved being with her during those wee hours of the night. What a wonderful book. Glad you enjoyed it and I think you did the book justice in your review.

  9. Ah, welcome to the cult of Murakami.

    Merry Christmas and a great new year ahead.

    PS: I will definitely try to get to Peter S. Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place in 2009. Hope you’re enjoy it so far.

  10. […] After Dark by Haruki Murakami 2. In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami 3. Mateki: The Magic Flute by Yoshitaka […]

  11. I am reading this one now and I’m enjoying it, but still I personally think it is not as good as Kafka on the Shore or Norwegian Wood. It is thou entertaining and keeps you awake to the end, for the Murakami fans it is a good book to read, they would not be dissapointed. I recommend you Kafka on the Shore, it is one of the best books by Murakami.

    Greetings and Merry Christmas to you!

  12. It is a very hard book to review.. but you have done a pretty good job.

    I’m currently reading a collection of his short stories, ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’. Have you read it?
    If not, you should definitely read it. Most of his stories are serene and nostalgic. The book on the whole has a very ‘Murakami feeling’ to it. (know what I mean?)

  13. Great review – I have just read it and found it really hard to describe when writing about it. There is something indescribable about his writing isn’t there – it just needs to be experienced!

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