Today I finished After Dark, another one of Haruki Murakami’s books. The story basically spans one night, from midnight til dawn, and follows the sisters Eri & Mari Asai – and the people they interact with and come across during this one night. I say interact with but it’s not quite as straightforward as that for Eri – she is sort of in another realm, in her dreams and she’s not really actively interacting with anyone because she’s asleep. That doesn’t make any sense if you haven’t read it, I guess. Mari is sitting in a family restaurant reading a book when she first meets Takahashi, a young man who is an acquaintance of her sister, and who is spending the late hours of the day practicing with his band. Through him she meets others and each characters is somehow connected to the others. It’s kind of hard to explain but the book is split into two “worlds”, the real world and the dream realm. It’s written as if you’re watching a movie, it’s especially so with Eri Asai’s part – the writing is very much written as if you are an observer – simply watching, unable to interact or interrupt the flow of actions and happenings. In this way, it’s definitely an interesting sort of narrative, unusual for me, but it’s also one of the downsides of this book for me. When you’re reading a book, you’re always an observer, but often times you can feel as if you’re part of the story and that is what makes you feel so connected to the characters and the world that they live in. But because this is specifically written in this narrative style, I felt disconnected to the characters and hence never really felt any strong emotions reading this.
Saying that, I still think it was good. The magical realism is subtler than in Kafka on the Shore or Wind-up Bird Chronicle, but it’s not out of place – as I felt with Sputnik Sweetheart. It’s there but it’s done quietly, and sort of creeps up on you. I enjoyed following the various conversations and interactions that Mari has over the course of the night, even if I didn’t feel any emotional connection with her. I liked the overall atmosphere of the setting, I could definitely imagine the places – as I said, as if I was watching a movie. It’s really a very easy book to read, and the end was interesting as well in my opinion.
I don’t think this is one of Murakami’s best works, but it’s still worth reading I think if you enjoy his writing style or even if you like japanese literature/culture in general it’s worth checking out.