In 1995, the physical and social landscape of Japan was transformed by the Kobe earthquake and the poison gas attacks in the Tokyo subways. By a ...Show synopsisIn 1995, the physical and social landscape of Japan was transformed by the Kobe earthquake and the poison gas attacks in the Tokyo subways. By a world-class writer, this is a short but powerful book whose importance is emphasized by its hideous timeliness, and whose great gift is both comfort and understanding.Hide synopsis
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Haruki Murakami's after the quake is a collection of six stories, each totally distinct and unrelated except for the unifying connection to the Kobe earthquake, which killed over 6,000 people. While there are no descriptions of the actual quake, the carnage or even a true direct connection to the quake, it serves as a backdrop, a constant conversation piece between many of the characters.
It's that kind of impact that these traumatic events have on people. I remember after the 1989 earthquake, where I was about ten miles away from the epicenter, that almost everything afterwards was in some way secondary to the quake. Class, girlfriends, some random event on the news, anything - it was all viewed within the context of what we'd all just been through.
That's the tone Murakami captures in this collection. In some cases, the quake seems to act as a catalyst -- a man's wife simply packs up and leaves him without much in the way of explanation. In others, the quake is simply referred to conversationally by several characters who are seemingly disconnected from it.
This book felt like classic Murakami-lite, in the sense that (perhaps by nature of the form of the short story) the characters were much thinner than his normal works but the themes and tones were straight from the Murakami playbook. (No talking cats, however.) I have two other collections of stories by Murakami which I haven't yet read - I'm certainly going to do so soon, but I'm more eager to read the novels of his I've not gotten to yet. Overall, it was good but not up to the par he's set for me with his novels.
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