Book Review: After Dark by Murakami Haruki

13640447“It’s true, though: time moves in its own special way in the middle of the night.”

After Dark is a short novel by Murakami Haruki published in 2004.

The story is told from an alternating perspective, scenes are changing movie like, the story is written in a screenplay style.

What happens? It is not clear.

Things belong to the darkness. Everything happens during one single night.

The intro scene is playing in a diner restaurant. Mari, a Japanese girl is sitting alone at a table reading a book. Other single customers are around with their laptops, cellphones, some guests are just staring.

The door opens. A woman comes in, looking around, then walking straight towards Mari and picking her up. You do not know why.

Then the scene changes to a love hotel, where a Chinese prostitute was hurt by a customer, who had fled the building. Mari was the only person available to help interpreting from Chinese to Japanese, therefore she was chosen. So Mari and the hotel staff eventually could help the girl escape the situation.

Murakami introduces a parallel nightmarish story about Mari’s sister Eri. She is sleeping and at the same time awake. Eri had realized that she is trapped in a room with no doors, and she is trying to escape this situation by sleeping. “… let me get to sleep again! she pleads. If only I could fall sound asleep and wake up in my old reality! This is the one way Eri can now imagine escaping from the room.”

Back from the love hotel incident Mari meets a boy named Takahashi at the diner. And covered by the night, they begin to talk about their lives and inner feelings, Takahashi reveals he had an affair with Eri some time ago. And Mari is worried about her own relationship with Eri, which became very difficult lately. As the two sisters are very different they became estranged from each other. Their lives are so contrary, there is little tolerance for each other, therefore a huge gap is all there is left – they are not talking to each other anymore. Mari is hurt, but there seems no way out for her, because she cannot reach Eri anymore.

Mari is talking with Takahashi about Eri and slightly things begin to change. In the end there is hope for a small path to Eri.

Some parts of the story are kafkaesk. The scenes are loosely knit together and told from alternating perspectives. Murakami walks us from a lonely diner table, through the dark aisles of a love hotel, into a nightmarish situation of a closed room, then back to the diner. And now talking to each other, getting to know each other’s secrets and inner feelings, maybe something lightens up as it becomes morning again.

You do not know exactly. And you do not have to. It is in between two days. Things change. That is After Dark.

村上 春樹. アフターダーク, 2004. After Dark by Murakami Haruki. translated by Jay Rubin, 2007.