In Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, After Dark, he tells a unique and compelling story of what goes on after midnight on the streets of Tokyo. It is a very different world from that of the daytime, with very different people. Murakami makes this clear by revealing that the rules of physics and reality don’t necessarily apply.
The story begins with a young girl, Mari Asai, reading a book at Denny’s after midnight, but it immediately jumps to the unusual, as Mari is greeted by a boy she hasn’t seen in a while who sits opposite her and begins conversing. She admits she plans on spending the night out, doing anything other than sleeping. The boy, Tetsuya Takahashi, tells her about his late night band practices – he is a trombonist. After he leaves for his practice, a short while passes before a strange, rough looking woman comes into Denny’s and walks straight up to Mari, telling her she is the manager of a love hotel and has found a beaten girl who only speaks Chinese in one of her rooms; Takahashi told her Mari speaks Chinese. So begins an adventurous – and at times dark and morbid – night.
After Dark tells of various characters who all go about their lives during the early morning hours in Tokyo, but who are intrinsically linked and will cross paths one or more times during the night. At the heart of the story is Mari and her love for her beautiful sister, to whom she is no longer close. Eri Asai was a girl born with a special beauty, but recently gave up on life and now spends her days and nights in a deep, almost catatonic sleep. But she is just one cast member whose life is affected on this particular night.
Murakami uses a floating camera narrator to take the reader everywhere and anywhere, where there are no bounds, where things are dark and scary. After Dark is a short, but haunting tale with some special characters who will stay with you long after you have closed the book and put it aside.
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Originally written on May 1st 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.