Behold! My review of Haruki Murakami's After Dark:
Review by TED MAHSUN
Author: Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Harvill Secker, 191 pages
WHILE Haruki Murakami has his throng of fans and is constantly applauded for his works, he has also been criticised of being repetitive. Critics have denounced his books as being nothing but the same tired story of a directionless male protagonist going nowhere.
As if in response to this, Murakami took a different tack in Kafka on the Shore, his previous novel, where he discarded his usual first-person narrative, and wrote the book from a third-person perspective and changed his protagonist from a directionless young man ... to a directionless young boy.
Okay, so it’s not much of a change, but I guess he’s got to start somewhere. In After Dark, his latest novel, Murakami goes out on a full experimental journey not only for the novel’s characters but also for himself. It’s certainly a different beast from what he’s written before. The novel is still Murakami-esque, but thankfully it’s not more of the same thing.
Befitting its title, the action takes place in the wee hours between midnight and dawn. The novel eschews the directionless male protagonist, and instead focuses on a number of interesting individuals who live the nocturnal city life. How the novel actually does this is one of the elements that separates After Dark from Murakami’s other books.
We meet these individuals through the lens of a narrative camera, which is probably a character in itself. The opening pages take the reader swooping from the skies like a big-budget flick: “Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from mid-air. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature – or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old.”
The camera zooms in on an all-night fast food restaurant where we meet our first character, Mari Asai, who sits alone reading a book. She is met unexpectedly by her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Takahashi, a student who prefers playing the trombone to studying law. This sets the ball rolling for the narrative camera to take us to meet the many strange night creatures that inhabit Tokyo.
There’s Kaoru, the manager of Hotel Alphaville, named after Jean-Luc Godard’s movie; Shirakawa, the white-collar worker who may or may not have abused a prostitute in that hotel; and Eri Asai, Mari’s sister, who seems to be trapped in her sleep.
The combined influences of film noir and horror blend together to create a mysterious and somewhat mystical kind of atmosphere in a city known to be on the cutting edge of technology.
After Dark is a short read but its mysteries and puzzles might entice the discerning reader to give the book another go once it’s been read.