After Dark (Audio)

After Dark

A 19-year-old woman named Mari Esai sits in a Toyko Denny’s at midnight, alone, reading a book. There she would have remained had she not been interrupted by a young man named Takahashi, who remembers meeting Mari with her sister, Eri, a while back. Over the course of the night, Takahashi draws Mari out of herself.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami is more of a meditation than a story. There is a plot, but it’s merely there to give the characters a reason to interact. And it’s through those interactions that we get a glimpse of these people of the night. There’s Mari, the high-achieving student; an unnamed Chinese prostitute who gets beat up; Shirakawa, the man who does the beating; Kaoru and Korugi, the women who run the Alphaville, the “love hotel” where the beating occurs; Mari’s beautiful sister, Eri, who is sleeping at home; and the mysterious man with a masked face who watches Eri sleeping.

There’s something about the night that allows people to let down their guard, and Murakami’s characters find that, in the night, they can share their true thoughts. Characters discuss their lives and loves, their fears and fantasies. They act on their impulses, and certain aspects of their natures that may be hidden in the day are revealed.

This was my first experience reading Murakami, and I loved the world that he created. His crisp, clear writing is filled with nice details that allow you to really place yourself there with the characters. It’s great descriptive writing. At times, the deep conversations about the meaning of life went on too long for me, but, really, such conversations always seem long and tedious if you’re not actually involved. And nighttime seems to lend itself to such talks, so it feels right. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of Eri’s situation, but I think that’s intentional—and impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t read the book. I’ll just say there’s a touch of the surreal about it (and that’s the bit of the story that has continued to haunt me).

I’ve observed before that I tend to enjoy more plot-heavy books on audio, but After Dark is an exception. It works surprisingly well in this format. Some of that may have to do with the fact that so much of the book is dialogue. Also, at 5 hours, 44 minutes, the book almost takes place in real time.

I know Murakami has lots of fans in the blogosphere, so I’m hoping some of you can tell me how After Dark compares with the rest of his work. Any thoughts?

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10 Responses to After Dark (Audio)

  1. lena says:

    I’m currently listening to Wind Up Bird. His stories are generally more convoluted and a lot longer. I think the audiobook is over a day long.

    But I must say, it is worth it.

  2. Steph says:

    Unfortunately I haven’t read any Murakami (yet) so I cannot help you out on that front, but I really want to read him – I just can’t ever find his books at the used bookstore we frequent (probably a good sign, actually). From what I’ve read, he’s very surreal and always creates these heightened realities, which I get the sense was your experience with this one. I’m hoping to try Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, though in all likelihood I’ll jump at whichever book of his I first find!

  3. Teresa says:

    Lena: I was under the impression that After Dark is much simpler, plotwise, than his usual work. I like convoluted and long, so that sounds like a plus.

    Steph: I was much like you in that I was just wanting to give him a try, and I happened across this on the library’s audio shelves. There’s definitely a heightened sense of reality–and of unreality in one case–here. Even though nothing much happens, the nothing is rather intense.

  4. unfinishedperson says:

    I have only read a couple of his works, but loved A Wild Sheep Chase, one of his earlier works, and enjoyed Kafka on the Shore. I like how you explain his work: “Even though nothing much happens, the nothing is rather intense.” I think even he would appreciate that description of his work. For some reason, whenever I’m in a bookstore, I always seek him out even though I’ve never really bought anything by him. To me, it’s just the sign of a good bookstore, I guess, if they have his work in stock. :)

  5. Teresa says:

    unfinishedperson: It is amazing how intense “nothing much” can be. I think it has to do with the fact that, in After Dark anyway, the characters think so intensely about the things that happen.

  6. litlove says:

    I also have yet to read Murakami and would like to. This is a great review- finally I have an idea what this novel is about! But I will check out other commenters recommendations, too.

  7. Teresa says:

    litlove: Thanks! I’ve read lots of reviews of Murakami’s work and also don’t have a good sense of what most of the books are about. Maybe they’re all about an intense sort of nothing–like this one.

  8. Dorothy W. says:

    I’ve read one Murakami — The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and I liked it quite a bit. His style isn’t really the sort of thing I’m easily drawn to, but I did appreciate what he was doing and thought it was a very smart book.

  9. Teresa says:

    Dorothy: I’ve heard good things about Wind-Up Bird. Murakami strikes me as someone who does very smart work, so I’ll be interested to see what his more complex novels are like.

  10. Pingback: East Asian Authors « Diversify Your Reading

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