After Dark by Haruki Murakami

via Goodreads.com

Rated: 5/5 stars

Eyes mark the shape of the city.

– page 3, 11:56 PM

Have you ever felt that a certain book could have been written just for you? After Dark is mine. Possessive, I know, that’s how it feels but then since when has a book never been personal? It’s a quiet and observant work of art, one that just states it purpose in an understated inflection that belies its significance, its message to us.

This is my first Haruki Murakami and I have fallen in love. I’ve tried so much, struggled to express into words the soft-but-firm clinging strings of the spell that the night has cast upon me. So far, I haven’t found a short version, After Dark is the long one, and it’s come close.

Commuter trains of many colours move in all directions, transporting people from place to place. Each of those under transport is a human being with a different face and mind, and at the same time each is a nameless part of the collective entity. Each is simultaneously a part of a self-contained whole and a mere part. Handling this dualism of theirs skillfully and advantageously, they perform their morning rituals with deftness and precision: brushing teeth, shaving, tying neckties, applying lipstick.
– page 241, 6:50 AM

This fact of being an individual entity and a part of an ever morphing jigsaw puzzle of existence simultaneously, has always been on the fringes of my awareness and reading this it fills me with some contentment, now that I’ve finally seen it put in a coherent arrangement of words.

Mari has made her way through the long hours of darkness, traded many words with the night people she encountered there, and come back to where she belongs.
– page 243, 6:52 AM

I adore the way how Murakami eventually let the story trickle down to a gentle pace, pointing how meeting these ‘night people’ had changed Mari in a subtle but permanent way. We have – and will continue to – experience with this ourselves. There’s this curious thing about night people that sets them aside from the other half. There’s a variable they all had in common at some point though they have different thoughts, commit to different actions and deal with the results, they lead different lives but there’s an intersection somewhere that puts them on a mutual level of awareness.

The night is the other half of the moon, so to speak, and only a few of these people realize it. After Dark is flowing poetry, meticulously portioned and adequately garnished with thought provoking bites; Do you believe in reincarnation? Or after you death is there nothing left of you? Is action merely the incidental product of thought, or is thought the consequential product of action?

“I have been told I’ve got a darkish personality. A few times.” [Mari]
Takahashi swings his trombone case from his right shoulder to his left. Then he says, “It’s not as if our lives are divided simply into light and dark. There’s shadowy middle ground. Recognizing and understanding the shadows is what a healthy intelligence does. And to acquire a healthy intelligence takes a certain amount of time and effort. I don’t think you have a particularly dark character.”

– page 226, 5:38 AM

The characters all have this palpable sense of depth. In my experience as a reader the first person allows this to show more, however, Murakami’s third person omits much personal insight outside the dialogue but allows us to speculate comfortably and to draw our own conclusions, I can appreciate that. I am left wanting to know about these people; most definitely about Mari’s elder sister, Eri Asai; the compelling trombonist, Takahashi; the tough and caring ‘love hotel’ manager, Kaoru, her maid staff; to the Chinese prostitute and even the anonymous young couple pressed against each other by the vending machine, sharing warmth in the waning darkness. Also, I loved the musical references. I hear this is a common feature in Murakami’s work.

There were significant events, with their own share of mystery shadowing them, within these 244 pages, not much is resolved as the last page slipped noiselessly through my reluctant fingers. But I did get to see the beginning of things yet to come. A book is never truly finished, we keep its inhabitants alive long after we first closed the back cover.

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