The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home. The musician has plans to rehearse with his jazz band all night, Mari is equally unconcerned and content to read, smoke and drink coffee until dawn. They realise they've been acquainted through Eri, Mari's beautiful sister. The musician soon leaves with a promise to return before dawn. Shortly afterwards Mari will be ...
The midnight hour approaches in an almost empty all-night diner. Mari sips her coffee and glances up from a book as a young man, a musician, intrudes on her solitude. Both have missed the last train home. The musician has plans to rehearse with his jazz band all night, Mari is equally unconcerned and content to read, smoke and drink coffee until dawn. They realise they've been acquainted through Eri, Mari's beautiful sister. The musician soon leaves with a promise to return before dawn. Shortly afterwards Mari will be interrupted a second time by a girl from the Alphaville Hotel; a Chinese prostitute has been hurt by a client, the girl has heard Mari speaks fluent Chinese and requests her help. Meanwhile Eri is at home and sleeps a deep, heavy sleep that is 'too perfect, too pure' to be normal; pulse and respiration at the lowest required level. She has been in this soporfic state for two months; Eri has become the classic myth - a sleeping beauty. But tonight as the digital clock displays 00:00 a faint electrical crackle is perceptible, a hint of life flickers across the TV screen, though the television's plug has been pulled. Murakami, acclaimed master of the surreal, returns with a stunning new novel, where the familiar can become unfamiliar after midnight, even to those that thrive in small hours. With "After Dark", we journey beyond the twilight, strange nocturnal happenings, or a trick of the night?
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After Dark by Haruki Murakami reminded me of carefully-shuffled cards. Two decks representing two separate (yet ultimately and intimately related) stories are slowly merged, chapter by chapter, until they make one cohesive whole that is far more beautiful and evocative than either story would be if taken alone. Murakami is a master of this technique, and he is in fine form here.
Story one: It is midnight in downtown Tokyo. An introverted, bookish, somewhat cynical young woman drinks coffee and reads in an all-night diner, escaping into her book, retreating from the world, hiding from phantoms. She encounters several quirky and unexpected other late-night souls and has conversations and adventures, forming serendipitous attachments and revealing more about herself as the story progresses.
Story two: A beautiful young woman sleeps...and sleeps...and sleeps, still as stone in her bed. A quiet (David) Lynchian drama unfolds which may be literal or metaphor, dream, hallucination, or reality, or a bit of each. Any details I could give might spoil the story for potential readers, so I'll simply say it is subtly surreal, atmospheric, and rich in symbolism.
I mentioned David Lynch, and although he is a bit more in-your-face than Murakami, I feel the points of comparison are strong. There is a magical realist air all through the book, where the mundane takes stranger and less expected turns as the story progresses. This is not a work of horror fiction, yet there are several instances of imagery that would be right at home in one of the finer, more understated Japanese horror films. This book felt very cinematic to me, and I can very much see it being adapted for the screen by one of Japan's avant-garde and visionary auteurs. (I'd suggest Katsuhito Ishii, or perhaps Takashi Miike in one of his thoughtful, introspective phases.)
Murakami has created a lovely, unusual book full of surprises, wry humor, gorgeous prose, artful dialogue, poetic metaphor, and cinema-worthy scene-building. Read this if you love the author or Japanese literature in general, multi-layered meaning that will keep you thinking and re-evaluating long after you've finished reading, deftness of language, colorful and theater-quality casts of characters, or plots that coil labyrinth-like back and around and onto and into themselves. Read this if you are looking for the perfect book to escape into over coffee, in an all-night diner, after dark.
May 1, 2009
I have read 9 of Murakami's novels and to be honest, I've loved every single one, although, perhaps not instantly.
This is one that took me a little while to really get into. It is set during one night in Tokyo. Mari, the main character, is a quiet and intelligent girl who is, for reasons not yet revealed to us, sitting in an all night eatery, reading a book. Kaoru is a young guy in a band, who knows of Mari through her sister.
The book follows the actions of Mari. Her only interactions in the book are with Kaoru and with the owner and staff of a love hotel, and a Chinese prostitute. Mari connects all of the people together, but we rarely see other characters interacting.
The book also follows Mari's sister Eri, who is sound asleep. When the chapter is focusing on Eri, the narration changes and explains to the reader that "We are point of view only"
The whole novel is narrated in a way that gives the reader a vague feeling of voyeurism which is both uncomfortable and strangely enthralling.
As the previous review has stated, there is no resolution to the story, only the information which we have recieved.
Although it took me a while to get into, I actually loved it. The characters are enigmatic and interesting and the novel seems to take us through a Tokyo night like a very quiet and disjointed guided tour.
I would recomend it to people who have read other Murakami novels and know the kind of thing to expect!
Apr 26, 2009
Darker and darker
As with Murakami's other books, I am not sure what to take away from this novel of Tokyo nightlife. Two characters out of the cast of the novel interact and the rest simply exist in the same night. It is obscure and unsettling to read -- don't expect resolution.
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