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After Dark [Hardcover]

Haruki Murakami
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 8 2007
A short, sleek novel of encounters set in the witching hours of Tokyo between midnight and dawn, and every bit as gripping as Haruki Murakami’s masterworks The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore.

At its center are two sisters: Yuri, a fashion model sleeping her way into oblivion; and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s into lives radically alien to her own: those of a jazz trombonist who claims they’ve met before; a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maidstaff; and a Chinese prostitute savagely brutalized by a businessman. These “night people” are haunted by secrets and needs that draw them together more powerfully than the differing circumstances that might keep them apart, and it soon becomes clear that Yuri’s slumber–mysteriously tied to the businessman plagued by the mark of his crime – will either restore or annihilate her.

After Dark moves from mesmerizing drama to metaphysical speculation, interweaving time and space as well as memory and perspective into a seamless exploration of human agency – the interplay between self-expression and understanding, between the power of observation and the scope of compassion and love. Murakami’s trademark humor, psychological insight, and grasp of spirit and morality are here distilled with an extraordinary, harmonious mastery.

“Eyes mark the shape of the city. Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair. 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. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm. Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has indeed passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city’s moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.”
—from After Dark

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From Publishers Weekly

Murakami's 12th work of fiction is darkly entertaining and more novella than novel. Taking place over seven hours of a Tokyo night, it intercuts three loosely related stories, linked by Murakami's signature magical-realist absurd coincidences. When amateur trombonist and soon-to-be law student Tetsuya Takahashi walks into a late-night Denny's, he espies Mari Asai, 19, sitting by herself, and proceeds to talk himself back into her acquaintance. Tetsuya was once interested in plain Mari's gorgeous older sister, Eri, whom he courted, sort of, two summers previously. Murakami then cuts to Eri, asleep in what turns out to be some sort of menacing netherworld. Tetsuya leaves for overnight band practice, but soon a large, 30ish woman, Kaoru, comes into Denny's asking for Mari: Mari speaks Chinese, and Kaoru needs to speak to the Chinese prostitute who has just been badly beaten up in the nearby "love hotel" Kaoru manages. Murakami's omniscient looks at the lives of the sleeping Eri and the prostitute's assailant, a salaryman named Shirakawa, are sheer padding, but the probing, wonderfully improvisational dialogues Mari has with Tetsuya, Kaoru and a hotel worker named Korogi sustain the book until the ambiguous, mostly upbeat dénouement. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Murakami's celebrated oeuvre falls into two easily distinguished categories: there are the broad-canvas epics (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1997, for example), which meld genres, distort reality, and posit alternate worlds with abandon but do it all on the crest of an almost Dickensian tidal wave of story. And there are the small-scale, disarmingly intimate, almost tactile short novels (Sputnik Sweetheart, 2001, among others), jewel-like examinations of loneliness and secret selves. His latest effort falls into the second camp: the action takes place during one long Tokyo night, from midnight to dawn, and centers on two sisters, one, Eri, a fashion model, does nothing but sleep (though she may or may not drift between worlds in the process); her college-student sister, Mari, on the other hand, refuses to sleep, spending the night first drinking coffee in a Denny's and then in a series of encounters with an ever-more-strange group of night people, ranging from an introspective jazz musician to a Chinese prostitute, to the earth-motherish proprietor of a "love hotel." The narrative flows like a jazz ballad, excruciatingly slow yet hypnotically entrancing ("Time moves in its own way in the middle of the night," opines a bartender. "You can't fight it"). Each character is unique in his or her form of loneliness, yet each possesses a capacity for momentary empathy that is both sweet and heartbreaking. Murakami's genius, on both large and small canvases, is to create worlds both utterly alien and disconcertingly familiar. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magical novel June 24 2007
By Patrick St-Denis TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Haruki Murakami's After Dark is more novella than novel. Indeed, the US edition weighs in at only 191 pages. I was a bit put off by its length, to tell you the truth, yet I discovered that the book is as long as it needs to be. Murakami's tale draws you in and won't let go, and soon the number of pages becomes meaningless.

This magical realism story is an intimate narrative that follows the interwoven storylines between a number of disparate characters: Mari, a young student determined to spend the night away from home; Eri, her sister, a fashion model who's been slumbering inexplicably for the last two months; Takahashi, a jazz trombonist who stumbles upon Mari and recognizes her; Kaoru, the manager of a "love hotel" and her staff; a Chinese prostitute brutalized by a customer; Shirakawa, the businessman who beat up the hooker. After Dark explores how these men and women are all related, with everything occurring during the span of a single Tokyo night.

In this flawless translation, Haruki Murakami's impeccable, evocative prose expounds on the different states of loneliness.

The dialogues, even when they appear innocuous, show a lot of insight, while the deep and more thoughtful conversations are a delight.

Still, it's the atmosphere created by the author which makes After Dark a special read. The ambience is sublime, as if the night became a character in its own right. The darkness becomes a time of revelations, a period of transition in the lives of the cast.

As a short, sleek book, After Dark is perfect for the beach, the plain, or the train. Bring this one along with you on vacation and you won't be disappointed!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly delicious Oct. 18 2009
A true masterpiece from possibly the best fiction writer this century. Murakami never fails to impress with his carefully crafted worlds. In this novella he veers away from his usual first person narrative and tells a story in third person present tense; the effect is highly cinematic. The reader becomes "a single point of view" taking the form of a "midair camera that can move freely about the room."

The most impressive aspect of this novella is how Murakami courageously battles new genres and themes in each of his works. This novella beautifully compliments his other works. And while it may not be as thorough and rich as "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" or "Kafka on the Shore", reading "After Dark" was as luxurious and hedonistic as slowly sipping a fine glass of red wine. I found myself "biting off and chewing it one line at a time" just as Mari does her own book in "After Dark."

Murakami deserves more than five stars! An excellent piece indeed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast paced Nov. 19 2012
Neat, fast paced novel by the Japanese master. Magical realism at its best, it certainly rewards re-reading. A great introduction to Haruki Murakami.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Nice book Jan. 21 2014
By Suvi
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I love this book! And it is so interesting in Chinese. And I will read more books about Haruki Murakami.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars After Dark disappointed. Aug. 21 2010
By SBuckle
After Dark disappointed. I was fresh off Kafka on the Shore whose Kafka and Nakata stories sucked me in (I also became a huge Soseki fan because if Kafka's days in the Takamatsu library). After Dark, much like Norwegian Wood, didn't resonate with me. Maybe I didn't like Murakami's presentation of Tokyo - a city whose identity is so ever-changing yet to me, so personally rigid making others interpretations sometimes hard to digest. I think Murakami's pen wields so much power when he can develop a character or two in great lengths, which I didn't think he allowed himself to do in After Dark.
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