Haruki Murakami, After Dark
After enjoying The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and the excellent Kafka on the Shore even more, I decided to read Murakami’s After Dark. Alas, I was hugely disappointed… Once again, Murakami has written a novel of magic realism, but this one felt contrived, more the work of a first-time writer than of a writer having achieved literary maturity.
In After Dark, the narrator is an omniscient “we”, that compares itself to a camera, and flies above the city (Tokyo?), or focuses on different characters, at different times on the same night. The effect is not convincing at all, it weighs the narration and doesn’t make much sense. Through this plural “we”, the reader gets acquainted to different characters:
Eri Asai is sleeping, she has been sleeping for a long time even though nothing is physically wrong with her. In her room, the unplugged TV screen flickers. Something strange is about to take place.
Eri’s sister Mari is reading a book in a bar. She doesn’t want to go home, and purposely misses the last train. Takahashi, a young student and trombone player, recognizes her and sits at her table for a while. He is fascinated by her sister Eri and wants to ask questions about her. Later, Kaoru, manager of a love hotel, who got Mari’s number through Takahashi, asks her to help with one of the customer: a young Chinese prostitute who has been beaten up by a client and can’t speak Japanese…
Shirakawa works overnight in a downtown office, his wife complains about never seeing him. He looks serious, well dressed. Nobody, from seeing him, would guess he has just beaten up a prostitute in a love hotel.
These characters seem interesting and one wants to know more about them, but the story just hovers on the surface of things, and is either too long for what it has to offer, or to short to suck the reader into its world. As other Murakami’s novels it is about urban loneliness, people surrounded by other people but lacking human connections, guilty people, people fleeing something, people searching their own identities and meeting their fates. Once again, Murakami is inspired by Paul Auster’s world, but were Auster always manages to triumph, here the novel simply fails to take form, remains inconclusive.
A lazy work by a good writer…