Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Murakami’s ‘After Dark’ weaves surreal dream world

This review was written by Karin Tompkins.

Although he is more famous for his lengthier novels, “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” Japanese novelist,  Haruki Murakami‘s short novel “After Dark” is a mysterious, mesmerizing read that embodies Murakami’s typical theme of alienation in modern Japanese society. It’s a riddle of a novel, and by no means easily understood, but bibliophiles looking for a break in the monotony should definitely give this book a try.

Set at night in modern Tokyo, the events of the novel take place over seven hours, and include a chance meeting in a Denny’s restaurant with a distressed Chinese prostitute and a glimpse into the troubled relationship of 19-year-old Mari Asai with her beautiful older sister Eri, who has been in a coma-like slumber for two months. The novel’s plot is nebulous, indeed, some readers may wonder if there even is a plot, but Murakami’s skillful merging of dream with reality is engaging.

As Mari wanders through one of Tokyo’s shady entertainment districts, pausing in hotels and restaurants to kill time until the night is over, her conversations with the people she meets are the only indicators of her troubled thoughts. Chapters featuring Mari are interspersed with episodes following the other characters of the novel: a jazz trombonist, a former pro-wrestler who now manages a “love hotel” and Eri. Eri’s chapters are by far the most abstract parts of the book, as they follow her descent into a dream world, in which an inscrutable person referred to as The Man With No Face watches her sleep. These sections of the novel are both puzzling and lovely, as Murakami perfectly captures the world of the dream, in which the dreamer is both conscious and unconscious of reality.

“After Dark” is perhaps not as well-wrought as Murakami’s more famous works: it seems to end far too quickly, leaving the reader wondering what the point of it all was: but it is a good introduction to his themes and writing style for the uninitiated, and it sure is fun to read. Even with the dilution that occurs when a novel is translated from the original Japanese, the dialogue, descriptions and quirky style remain. Readers who enjoy this book should certainly pick up Murakami’s other works, including his new novel “1Q84,” which debuted in October.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *