“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.
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