Title: After Dark
Original Writer (Japanese) : Haruki Murakami
Translated to English by: Jay Rubin
Originally Published in Japanese: 2004
Translated to English: 2007
My Rating: 4 on 5
There are very few writers who can convey their inner thoughts and feelings and transport the reader to the world that exists only in the writer’s mind. Haruki Murakami is one such writer for whom this comes naturally. After Dark was my first Murakami book and I am kicking myself why I didn’t read this author earlier. I wouldn’t have tried Murakami if not for The Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge. I do not have anything against him, but never felt the urge to read his books. I ignored him as one of the Dan-Brown-type-hyped-up authors who doesn’t really have anything to offer. How wrong I was!
After Dark, as the title suggests, is set in Tokyo in the dark hours of midnight. The book spans over 7 hours in a cold night where we see interesting characters. We meet Mari, who is killing the night in Denny’s by reading a book where she bumps into Takahashi, a trombone player who is practising in a building nearby. He claims he has met her and her sister, Eri, at a summer date a few years back. The night proceeds and we see Mari’s help being sought by a female wrestler who runs a love hotel where one of her clients is injured and can only speak Chinese, which Mari is fluent in. One thing leads to another and many characters enter the scene only to realize they are all tightly bound together through one string or the other. Meanwhile, Eri – Mari’s sister, is deep asleep in a quasi-coma state and finds herself being transported to another world inside her television and back to her original room. We see a character’s image being reflected in the mirror even after the character has long gone. These scenes add to the already established surreality of the book.
Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount
People’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel.
Nothingness means there’s absolutely nothing, so maybe there’s no need to understand it or imagine it
Time moves in its own special way in the middle of the night. You can’t fight it
From the first word, Murakami’s surreal tone casts a spell on you. As soon as you open the book, you are transported to that cold night in Tokyo where you see Mari and Takahashi and still feel as if you are floating on air, watching the happenings beneath. The characters come out so beautifully that you can feel their pain and the loneliness. The book is divided into small chapters based on the time of the event and a clock at the beginning of every chapter keeps reminding us of the time.
Even after I finished reading the book, it still lingers over in my mind. I am constantly reminded about a dialogue or a scene or an action and I keep going back to that book. I can’t wait to start reading my next Murakami book. I am thinking of picking up his popular book Norwegian Wood. Any other suggestions?