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After the Quake: Stories [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 13 2003 Vintage International
The six stories in Haruki Murakami’s mesmerizing collection are set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake, when Japan became brutally aware of the fragility of its daily existence. But the upheavals that afflict Murakami’s characters are even deeper and more mysterious, emanating from a place where the human meets the inhuman.

An electronics salesman who has been abruptly deserted by his wife agrees to deliver an enigmatic package—and is rewarded with a glimpse of his true nature. A man who has been raised to view himself as the son of God pursues a stranger who may or may not be his human father. A mild-mannered collection agent receives a visit from a giant talking frog who enlists his help in saving Tokyo from destruction. As haunting as dreams, as potent as oracles, the stories in After the Quake are further proof that Murakami is one of the most visionary writers at work today.

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From Amazon

Haruki Murakami, a writer both mystical and hip, is the West's favorite Japanese novelist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Murakami lived abroad until 1995. That year, two disasters struck Japan: the lethal earthquake in Kobe and the deadly poison gas attacks in the Tokyo subway. Spurred by these tragic events, Murakami returned home. The stories in After the Quake are set in the months that fell between the earthquake and the subway attack, presenting a world marked by despair, hope, and a kind of human instinct for transformation. A teenage girl and a middle-aged man share a hobby of making beach bonfires; a businesswoman travels to Thailand and, quietly, confronts her own death; three friends act out a modern-day Tokyo version of Jules and Jim. There's a surreal element running through the collection in the form of unlikely frogs turning up in unlikely places. News of the earthquake hums throughout. The book opens with the dull buzz of disaster-watching: "Five straight days she spent in front of the television, staring at the crumbled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways." With language that's never self-consciously lyrical or show-offy, Murakami constructs stories as tight and beautiful as poems. There's no turning back for his people; there's only before and after the quake. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

These six stories, all loosely connected to the disastrous 1995 earthquake in Kobe, are Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; Norwegian Wood) at his best. The writer, who returned to live in Japan after the Kobe earthquake, measures his country's suffering and finds reassurance in the inevitability that love will surmount tragedy, mustering his casually elegant prose and keen sense of the absurd in the service of healing. In "Honey Pie," Junpei, a gentle, caring man, loses his would-be sweetheart, Sayoko, when his aggressive best friend, Takatsuki, marries her. They have a child, Sala. He remains close friends with them and becomes even closer after they divorce, but still cannot bring himself to declare his love for Sayoko. Sala is traumatized by the quake and Junpei concocts a wonderful allegorical tale to ease her hurt and give himself the courage to reveal his love for Sayoko. In "UFO in Kushiro" the horrors of the quake inspire a woman to leave her perfectly respectable and loving husband, Komura, because "you have nothing inside you that you can give me." Komura then has a surreal experience that more or less confirms his wife's assessment. The theme of nothingness is revisited in the powerful "Thailand," in which a female doctor who is on vacation in Thailand and very bitter after a divorce, encounters a mysterious old woman who tells her "There is a stone inside your body.... You must get rid of the stone. Otherwise, after you die and are cremated, only the stone will remain." The remaining stories are of equal quality, the characters fully developed and memorable. Murakami has created a series of small masterpieces.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The book is short, a mere 181 pages long. The six stories are short too. And they all left me with an uneasy feeling. I'm sure that was the author's intention. After all, each one takes plays in 1995, in the weeks after the Kobe earthquake. None of the stories are about the earthquake itself though. Rather, they all use it as a distant backdrop to develop memorable characters, each coming to terms with the concept of the earth shaking under their feet.

The stories are both real and surreal. The people in them are troubled. Some have allegorical stories within. And all have fully developed characters. There's a man who tries to understand why his former wife says he has nothing inside himself. There's a humanized frog who convinces a man that they have to save Tokyo from another earthquake. There's a woman who travels to Thailand and learns to deal with the fact of her own mortality. There are three friends who must come to terms with their strange love triangle which has gone on for many years. There's a man who loves to build bonfires. All of the themes seem a bit out of focus, like something is going on that I can't quite grasp.

Clearly, the author is talented. However the stories ended too abruptly for my taste. And, after each I had the same thought. "What was THAT about?"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Try, try again. Jan. 22 2004
Murakami has a magic formula that seems to charm both critics and casual readers. It goes something like this:
1) Create a thoughtful and somewhat remote narrator/main character - someone who has gone through trauma and gained an almost Zen-like calm as a result.
2) Project this character into a world that features either serendipidous events or outlandish occurances, which the character, in his (always his) detached state, simply accepts as normal day-to-day occurances.
3) End the story without any resolution, but with lots of pseudo-deep cant like "You think your journey is over but really it's just begun."
This worked well for "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle." It worked well for "Norweigian Wood." Unfortunately, it didn't work for "Sputnik Sweetheart", and, at this late an iteration, just seems tired. Gone is the Murakami whose books seemed like novel-length haikus. His gift was the ability to crystallize emotion with a minimalist style that makes even the most stripped-down Western prose seem florid. The new Murakami of "After the Quake" just seems burnt out. We don't get minimal description because he is able to pluck just the right phrase out of the ether - we get it because he seems tired of trying. Perhaps I am merely a shallow reader and cannot see how this is merely a stylistic interpretation of the Japanese sense of angst in post-Kobe Earthquake life, but - barring any sudden ability to gain insight into the Nihonjin psyche - it feels insubstantial rather than precise.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting ... enchanting ... July 2 2003
Two people look at the night sky. One sees darkness and dots of light. Another sees a thousand marvels.
As the shock of an earthquake wears off, a sort of soul-quake takes place. After all, if we can't rely on the ground under our feet to remain solid, what can we be certain of? Sometimes we KNOW that in the brain, but it takes an earthquake or terrorist attack for us to FEEL it in the gut -- for the knowing to be meaningful.
Something intangible but essential shakes loose in the people of Japan weeks after the Kobe earthquake. Like the rock mantle that once covered Kobe, neglected souls have liquefied. Now change is possible. For some, that means healing. For one, it means, not just losing, but unknowingly giving away his...soul(?). Another meets a heretofore hidden aspect of his Self. I guess it depends on what had been important in their lives and where they were headed before.
The stories are told gently, subtly and with respect. A writer's self-inflicted chains are broken and he finds his freedom. A dumpy, overly modest, milquetoast doormat of a man finds his true power. With the help of a guru/limo driver, a rock of hatred that even the soul-quake left intact is only now able to be recognized and dealt with.
I wouldn't presume to discuss Mr. Murakami's use of metaphor and allegory. I think each reader will find what s/he needs to find. ("When the student is ready....") That's one reason I'll be reading this book again soon: There's much to be found.
AFTER THE QUAKE, I suggest, is best read slowly and often, with soft and open awareness; it's to be contemplated upon.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kobe Aftershocks. July 2 2003
Each of the short stories in the excellent "After the Quake" are linked to the terrible earthquake that shook Kobe in Jan'95. Although none are actually set in Kobe, the epicentre of the devastation, allusions to the disaster flit briefly into the radar of each story before quickly dipping out of sight again. Though the characters in these haunting stories are far removed from the scene of the tragedy, the earthquake, nonetheless, reverberates in subtle ways deep into their troubled lives.
"UFO" contains elements both of realism and surrealism. Komura's wife spends five intense days transfixed on the earthquake reports on her television, from morning to night, virtually unmoving, oblivious to all else. ("crumbled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways") Thereafter, abruptly, she deserts Komura. ("you have nothing inside you that you can give me with you is like living with a chunk of air") Komura, a salesman, is requested by Sasaki, a colleague to deliver a packaged box, contents unknown, to Hokkaido. At the receiving end, following a surreal experience, Komura is brought face to face with his own inner emptiness.
In "Landscape With Flat Iron", Junko, a young woman, enjoys the company of Miyake, a forty-something painter who lights midnight beach bonfires stacked from driftwood. Miyake can look at fires in the way "a sculptor can imagine the pose of a figure hidden in a lump of stone." Gazing at the shapes the bonfire makes elevates Junko to a higher plane of being; watching the fire, she gets "this deep, quiet kind of feeling" where revelations and deeper truths come to her.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Crystal clear, magical short stories
Having read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (and loved it) and then Kafka on the Shore (and not loved it), I was unsure how my third foray into Murakami-land would go. Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2009 by J. Tobin Garrett
1.0 out of 5 stars Stories that have nothing to do with the earthquake
These stories have absolutely nothing to do with the Kobe earthquake with the exception of the first story, which includes a female character who stares at the tv for 5 straight... Read more
Published on Dec 25 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars poetic, haunting .. brilliant
this slender collection of short stories is easily the among the best ive read. tender, evocative and touching, this is one to savor and remember. Read more
Published on June 9 2003 by madhu m
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and absorbing-quintessential Murakami
Haruki Murakami's work sets the standard for the surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness genre of literature. Read more
Published on June 8 2003 by David J. Gannon
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome!!
For a long long time now, I'd been wanting to read
this new book by one of my Favorite writers and when I
did I was beyond elation...
Haruki Murakami is a genius. Read more
Published on June 2 2003 by Vivek Tejuja
4.0 out of 5 stars Murakami � After The Quake
Murakami's stories, like his novels, take place on an earthly plane just slightly askew from the one the rest of us inhabit. Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by Chris MB
4.0 out of 5 stars Murakami � After The Quake
Murakami's stories, like his novels, take place on an earthly plane just slightly askew from the one the rest of us inhabit. Read more
Published on May 28 2003 by Chris MB
4.0 out of 5 stars Six Degrees of Solitude
This rather sober collection of six stories is thematically linked to the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake, although none is set in Kobe or directly deals with it. Read more
Published on April 16 2003 by A. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I'm a huge Murakami fan, and I have read all of his novels and non-fiction that has been translated into English. There is just something about his writing that touches one's soul. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2003 by Daitokuji31
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