Haruki Murakami – After Dark

Original Title: アフターダーク
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Magic realism

Haruki Murakami writes as though he’s remembered every single dream he’s ever had. Not only does he remember them, but he visits them freely, trims their hedges, contemplates their form and color, and even brings back small trinkets and souvenirs.

One such postcard from nowhere is After Dark, a novella spanning the course of one night and many lifetimes. In it, Murakami masterfully concocts a tale of everyday minutiae with a healthy splash of fantastical suspense, topped off with a twist of hard-boiled crime, and garnished with some supernatural angst — shaken, not stirred.

A fast-paced urban landscape becomes a night market of wonders and trivialities, witnessed by 19-year-old Mari, who is struggling with a mystery of her own. Her troubles are revealed bit by bit as she gradually opens up to new friends by chance.

This story is one with unanswered questions and wrongs gone unpunished, which would be frustrating if Murakami didn’t leave us with the sense that this was only one night out of an endless many. After Dark materializes out of the ether, whispers into your ear, then vanishes into the morning mist, leaving just a scent of perfumed hair.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of sinking into the embrace of Murakami’s whimsy, this novella is a great introduction. There are, however, a few stylistic liberties taken with After Dark that might make it difficult to read. For starters, the sense of incompletion might come across as exasperating rather than alluring. The side characters tend to be as sparsely described as props in a play. The camera direction by the omnipresent narrator (“Our viewpoint takes the form of a midair camera…” reads Chapter 2) could be winced at as stilted — or worse, interpreted as passive-aggressive innuendo for a movie deal.

Though After Dark has its faults, it has just as many charms. It beckons us to cast our gaze toward the world outside on a sleepless night. It seeks to thrill and intrigue with ordinary problems during extraordinary circumstances.

Have you ever wondered where your spirit gets to when you dream? That might just be one answer you can find in these furtive fabulous pages.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Like it? Buy the book at Amazon.

By Stephanie Chan

8 Responses

  1. amy says:

    Actually, I think this was my second or third Murakami book. It’s definitely a lot easier reading-digestion than Hard-Boiled or Wind-Up Bird, which are massive. I kinda liked the eerie omnipresent entity quality it had, which also helped with the cinematic language when imagining all things. I actually did a list of all the actors I would cast haha.

    • Stephanie Chan says:

      @amy, Hard Boiled Wonderland is my favorite novel of his! I personally think Murakami really shines in his short stories. I’d love to review “After the Quake” later on, once I kind of make the circuit of all the authors I want to cover.

      That’s cool — did you put up the list of actors on this site? I kept bouncing between enjoying the cinematic language and finding it too distancing.

      • amy says:

        @Stephanie Chan, that was before I opened this website. xD But here goes the list:
        – Mari, Yu Aoi
        – Takahashi, Eita
        – Kaoru, Yamasaki Shizuyo
        – Korogi, Mikako Ichikawa

        and I couldn’t pick one actress for Eri, but I was choosing between either Kou Shibasaki or Asami Mizukawa.

        The other minor characters were maybe Sandrine Pinna (Chang Yung Yung) for the Chinese character, and Chang Chen for the other Chinese guy xD While having Abe Hiroshi as the office guy, even though he’s a bit too old for the role. LOL

  2. Camiele says:

    Before I go into anything I just have to say it…you are a BRILLIANT writer. I’m kind of in love with you, so if you see me trolling your posts a lot, don’t be alarmed. It’s just fangirl adoration :)

    Now, on the actual book. This seems just like the kind of story I could get into. I don’t necessarily go for mystery books, but this seems like a cut above anything I may have read of the genre. I’ll definitely have to check this one out.

    Thanks for posting!

    • Stephanie Chan says:

      @Camiele, Wow, thank you so much! That really means a lot to me ^^ I’m just glad you enjoyed reading my review.

      Murakami is definitely one of those authors who are almost undefinable! I’d definitely recommend reading “After Dark” for something a little mysterious, a little fantastical, and a little like “a slice of life.” Definitely let me know what you think if you get around to reading it :)

      Thanks again~

      • Camiele says:

        @Stephanie Chan, I’ll definitely let you know. I haven’t read anything in recent literature (besides some decent to amazing graphic novels) that’s really interested me. I’ll give this one a go once I’ve got reasonable spending funds in order… HaHA!

  3. Giacomo Lee says:

    I started writing a review of 1Q84 – but I read this and think you’d do a much better job!

    • Stephanie Chan says:

      @Giacomo Lee, Wow, thanks! I’d love to hear your thoughts on IQ84 ^^ I haven’t had a chance to read it. On a scale of awesome to universe-altering, where does it lie?

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