After Dark (Murakami) - Book recommendation
After Dark is a short novel by Haruki Murakami that describes the events happening over a single night in Tokyo. It starts off at midnight following a girl named Mari as she is sitting in a restaurant and reading a book. Mari spends her nights away from home, purposefully, to avoid facing something that's bringing her discomfort.
She's a young, independent 19 year old student that's always been in the shadow of her beautiful, older sister and thus often felt insecure and inferior. Which brings us to another point of view story is being told from - the room of her sister in which she is, on the first glance, sleeping peacefully. However, as "we" observe her for a while we realize that there is something very unusual going on in that room and that her sleep seems almost enchanted. A TV next to her bed is turned on and showing a dark figure of a man sitting in a big empty room.
The story is told from a different perspective here and we are struggling to figure out what is real as the camera is shifting from Eri and zooming into what's happening inside the television.
So we can assume that Mari is awake because Eri is asleep. The entire novel seems like an interconnected duality. While she's killing time in the city, Mari meets a series of characters from a woman that's a manager of a "love hotel", an immigrant prostitute brutally beaten by a customer and a chatty, pleasant trombonist who gets Mari to open up to him. During the course of the night, their stories and paths intertwine as we are trying to figure out what it is that's connecting them.
The decision to put the entire novel into a single night was very interesting and I very much enjoyed it as it keeps the reader on edge, guessing what might happen in the next moment. Night is the time when city streets are empty, especially as the dawn is creeping in. Even the 24/7 cafes and bars look abandoned. Following these lone figures who work better after dark or simply happened to be there was very entertaining and make you develop empathy towards them.
The writing is simply beautiful and almost poetic. Every sentence is calculated and flows perfectly. The story builds up over the 7 hours of night and as it culminates with the rising sun we are left in the dark guessing what the hell happened with our characters. One might be angry because there's many questions left to be answered (in which case Murakami might not be your best choice). But if you take it for what it is meant to be - a story of a single night, you might feel better and just leave it as an open ended conclusion.