After reading the short story collection of “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman“, I was left with the feeling of wanting more. The synopsis of “After Dark” (paperback 201 pages) intrigues me. It is midnight hour when Mari sips coffee, a young musician walks in, and they have a conversation. Later, as Mari is alone again, a girl from a love hotel walks in, and they both head to the hotel. A Chinese prostitute is hurt badly by her client. Meanwhile, parallel to the main story, Mari’s sister Eri is at home, sleeping so perfectly pure. Something is subtly wrong with this picture. The world of imagery meets with the world of reality and how these two concepts morph into something so beautifully, something so surreal, and something so dark in the ending chapter.
Each chapter begins with a clock that tells the time spinning a story that lasts from 11:56pm to 6:52am. The main story of Mari is engaging and the side story of Eri is surreal. I mention dualism because if carefully observed, most characters have a two-side. The story has the light and the dark running side by side too. The dialogues are lively and when it comes to words that describe the vision. They are beautiful. An excerpt as follows (the beginning chapter).
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 the activity has 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.
The influence of the Western culture, particularly Western music and literature, continues to exhibit in Haruki Murakami’s work. It is full of vision and sound and a worthwhile book to read if you enjoy stories that are dark and artistic. At times, you will find yourself living inside the story, short of interacting with the characters. Almost read like watching a short film. For best result, start reading “After Dark” at 11:56pm – the exact time when the story begins.