Murakami Challenge 2011

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

After Dark reads like a movie, the scenes are presented in a seemingly chronological manner. Like a camera, it zooms into the lives of interconnected individuals during the late hours of the day until dawn. It is reminiscent of Before Sunset/Sunrise, wherein you watch a long conversation unfold given very few hours; though the intruding lenses reminds you of Orwell’s 1984.

The novel explores the world after dark. For while majority of the world functions during the day, there is a world after dark. I often wondered why cities never sleep and often we forget that some people begin their day when it is after dark. Part truth, part strange, Murakami plays with life after dark.

Murakami experiments with a different style of storytelling in this book. He divides the story into chapters, along odd time, rather than sticking to clear times like 12:30 he would use 12:37.  The book chapters mainly divide itself between the two sisters, Mari and Eri Asai. The book explores their very different worlds and personalities as well as the great divide. It is in the ending that Murakami allows the merging of these two worlds by the simple act of sleeping next to each other.

After Dark is more in the same vein as Norwegian Wood than it is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. Apart from the chapters that explore a Sleeping Beauty and the seemingly peeping tom narrator/perspective, After Dark is a seemingly straightforward narrative that follows the life events of ordinary people—a student, a worker, and a trombone player.

In this novel Murakami does a few things differently. Unlike most of his novels, the story’s protagonist is female, but typical of Murakami the sense of ‘ordinariness’ commonly seen among his characters persist.  This story is also narrated using a third-person, all-seeing point of view which has a voice of its own. It is able to comment on events, but not intrude. Compared to most of his novels, Mari, the female protagonist doesn’t narrate the story or any parts of it.

Yet despite all this, Murakami doesn’t stray from his natural voice. Jazz music, food, and the inexplicable – fill the pages of After Dark. His love to explore other realms of consciousness and death – rings in this book. He explores a bit of the unconscious through ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and its connection to dreams. He includes a discussion of death in a conversation the protagonist has with one of the minor characters.  Also, typical of Murakami, closure is seemingly elusive. He closes the book without the traditional definiteness characteristic of most stories – though you feel he tied the strings together, he leaves a big gap for ‘what ifs’ and ‘what’s next.’

Prior to my reading of this book I noted that most Murakami fans gave this book rather negative reviews; most of them disliking it or thinking of it as substandard to Murakami’s other works. I suppose, we sometimes miss the mark. Any of his present novels cannot compare to his previous writing. As he changes as an individual, his writing also evolves and takes a different turn. This won’t be in my top 5 of Murakami’s Novels, but it still is worth the read and you won’t miss out on the essentials of a Murakami Novel.

Reading Challenge Update 5 of 7

7 comments on “After Dark by Haruki Murakami

  1. I know about this author, but have never read anything by him. By the way you’ve reviewed and spoken about his work, I think I’ve missed something! I’ll put him on the list for your challenge!

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    • Hi Linda,
      I’m glad this review made you want to check Murakami’s work. It’s not for everyone, but those who love his work, LOVE his work. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I won’t say every single book is beautiful, but there are gems. I suggest you read Wind Up Bird Chronicles as that’s his most critically acclaimed books. 🙂

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  2. I’ve always been quite intimidated of Murakami, which is why I haven’t ever read any of his books. Maybe I can start with this one, my day starts after dark too..

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    • I think the only difficulty a reader might have when reading Murakami is accepting the strangeness he presents. He presents them as a given, as if there’s no point of arguing on it. After Dark isn’t his best book, but if you could relate to it then maybe it would be a good read for you. However, as I often tell people intimidated by Murakami:start with Norwegian Wood, Follow by South of the Border, West of the Sun and then move up to the other books. The two books i mentioned are his easier reads and eases you to the author’s style.
      Enjoy your reading. 🙂

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  3. Pingback: The 2011 Reading Challenge Round Up |

  4. I think I would like to reread the novel after reading your analysis of how the novel is put together. I looked at the story itself. Here is my review and I’d love your comments: After Dark review

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    • Hi Harvee,
      Thanks for dropping by. It took me another reading to fully grasp how much the story is about the merging of 2 very different worlds. The conversation between Mari and the guy (the name escapes me at the moment) constantly refers to that divide between Mari and Eri and i found that the guy’s last words and Mari’s action of sleeping beside Eri to be symbolical.

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