Review – After Dark by Haruki Murakami

AfterDark(Audio)“You know what I think?” she says. “That 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. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed ’em to the fire, they’re all just paper. The fire isn’t thinking ‘Oh, this is Kant,’ or ‘Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,’ or ‘Nice tits,’ while it burns. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there’s no distinction–they’re all just fuel.”(After Dark)

I’ve never had the pleasure of discussing one of my all-time favorite authors on this blog, because I read all of his books during that dark time known as pre-blogging.  I lean on the side of loving everything he’s ever written, so understand that when you read this review.

After Dark describes the unspoken changes that happen to the world after the sun has set, while focusing on the unusual coincidences that connect the four main characters one night.  Tetsuya Takahashi runs into Mari Asai at a Denny’s.  He knew Mari’s older sister, Ari.  Takahashi used to work for Kaoru.  Kaoru needs someone who speaks fluent Chinese to help save a Chinese prostitute who was beat up by .  Mari happens to speak Chinese.  We are also introduced to Ari, who is asleep and unable to wake up, in a mysterious alternative universe.  Finally there is Shirakawa, the businessman who beat up the prostitute in Kaoru’s love hotel.  The novel follows their lives and interactions for one night in Tokyo, from late evening until the early hours of dawn.

Their lives intersect and intertwine in Murakami-style coincidence, but I found this novel to be distinct in many ways from Murakami’s other works.  I really enjoyed listening to it and it gave me a lot to think about.  This is a novel that is fully conscious of being a novel; the narrator is nameless, but not omniscient, they are flawed in their possible perception and supposed inability to intervene and interact in the world they are describing.  The perspective was distinct and unique.  This is more of a novel of the craft, playing with the more traditional ways novels are told and turning turning it upside down.  It takes aspects of film and turns them into techniques that work for the novel.

There are many reasons why I love Murakami.  I love that I am completely transported to Japan in every novel he writes.  I love that he always includes some elements of the fantastic in his novels.   I love that his books are not afraid to get creepy and they’re not afraid to be completely out there. 

After Dark is not my favorite Murakami novel, that goes to After the Quake and Kafka on the Shore, but I am always amazed by his style.  After Dark, I think, is somewhat of a departure (though not drastically so) from Murakami’s other works, but it’s something I think most of his fans will enjoy.

Brenda Song, as narrator, did a marvelous job.  Her use of accents and voices was particularly impressive.  I highly recommend the audio version of this novel.

88% – A novel about writing novels.  Especially enjoyable for fans of Murakami’s work.  

Other Reviews:

In Spring it is the Dawn
Evening All Afternoon
The Reading Life
Save Ophelia
Stuff As Dreams are Made On
Ready When You Are, CB
Ramya’s Bookshelves
Stainless Steel Droppings

Did I miss yours?

23 thoughts on “Review – After Dark by Haruki Murakami

  1. I am scared to death of this author. I have Kafka On the Shore as one of my Gaps books, so I have a few years to get to it, but really, he just scares me even though I think I should read something by him.

    1. I went into Murakami’s work without knowing anything about him. I was totally surprised by Kafka On the Shore after having no expectations. I think that’s the best way to go in. Don’t be intimidated, just be amazed 😉

      I would start with After the Quake, personally. It’s short stories and a good way to ease into his style. It’s also my favorite of his books!

  2. I have really been wanting to read Murakami for a while now, but I have had a tough time finding his books! Maybe I should start with Kafka on the Shore since so many people seem to love that one… he doesn’t sound like an author who has produced a bad book, though, which is always nice. I can’t wait to finally “discover” him!

    1. I read Norwegian Wood, too, but I don’t remember much about it. I always get that one and Sputnik Sweetheart confused, but after reading the summary of NW I remember liking it a lot! It was just so long ago that I read it! I highly recommend After the Quake and Kafka On the Shore.

  3. Ohhh the dark times 😦 There are so many books that I wish I had blogged earlier for!

    I keep meaning to read another Murakami (I started Wind Up Bird Chronicles on audio but haven’t been driving at all lately). Having read After Dark though – I think I really should get on that!

    1. I still don’t know what I think about Wind Up Bird Chronicle. I want to read it again, because I kept waiting for something big to happen and I don’t know that it does. I’d like to read it again without that expectation and just enjoy it.

  4. I’ve never read anything by Murakami, although he is very popular here in Denmark and all his books are translated from Japanese to Danish (which is quite something, by the way). For some reason his books never appealed to me, and people keep telling me to read him, because I like Paul Auster…. 🙂

  5. I love Murakami too – I think my favorites so far are the Wild Sheep Chase/Dance Dance Dance duo, but I 100% love most things I’ve read by him. After Dark was, I think, my least favorite so far, but it was still really enjoyable. As you said in your comment on my blog, I think listening to the audio version may have softened my stance on this a bit – on paper it seemed oddly choppy compared to the usual stunning quality of his writing & the translations of his books. I haven’t read After the Quake – I’ll have to give it a shot!

  6. The only Murakami book I’ve read is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which was okay, if disjointed and all over the place. (Although it actually felt very similar to 2666.) I’ve been wanting to read After Dark for awhile, though, because I love that urban vibe it seems to promise.

    Everything you talked about the “why I love Murakami” paragraph does sound very appealing to me. I should bump this one up on my TBR list.

  7. I have that pre-blogging dark time problem too! Like I love Rushdie, but I’d already read almost all of his books. :/ I guess we’ll just have to reread! 🙂

    Oh, and I have Murakami on my Japanese Lit III list this year. I read Norwegian Wood right when I began blogging, and I have Kafka on the Shore on my TBR list.

  8. I’m listening to What I Talk About When I Talk About Running right now – it’s Murakami’s memoir, but really a memoir about his running. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but I love the quote you started your review with. My library has Kafka on the Shore, so I think I’ll give that a go. I suspect I’d like his books in audio.

  9. I have this book on my tbr pile. I’m planning on reading it for Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge! I’ve eager to have a taste of this oft-spoken Murakami-style writing!

  10. Lu, I like your take on this novel. I also read it pre-blog, and also found it very different from his other work, though I have by no means read them all. In fact, I find every one of his novels to be very different from the one(s) that preceded it–except that I seem to be reading them backwards! Murakami is one author that I would follow anywhere (not sure about audio though; I would get confused. You clearly did not!).

    1. DS:

      I agree, he’s a versatile writer, though he does have his themes that pop up all the time. Mysterious, disappearing women, cats, jazz, among others. Audio books give me something to think about when I’m commuting! I have a long commute to school, so it’s nice to have something to listen to when there’s nothing on the radio.

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