Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Haruki Murakami: After Dark

I haven't read any Murakami before, though I'd heard good things about him. I'd also heard that he tended towards the odd, which was certainly the case here. I would summarise the plot, but he seems to be largely exploring anti-plot in the style of Joyce's Ulysses, so there isn't really much point. A rough description would be that the main (ish) character, Mari, spends time first in a coffee shop, then in a Japanese love hotel, meeting unusual characters, possibly (maybe) changing things for them, while her sister, who has spent months just sleeping, undergoes a rather surreal experience that looks like it ought to be a dream, but probably isn't. Confused yet? I was.

Thankfully, I remembered reading somewhere that one key to the whole thing is a moment near the end where a random stranger picks up a cell phone discarded by someone responsible for an attack on a prostitute earlier in the book, and is told "we know what you did", only to have it mean something to them. The point there, it seems, is that any meaning we find herein is our own, imposed on something that is otherwise disconnected and chance based. It's certainly a thought.

Murakami's writing, or rather the translation of it, has an almost telegrammatic feel, being punchy and to the point almost to the extent that it does away with any kind of flow. Intriguingly, the book is built largely on a series of pointed, accurate descriptions of people, backed up by diologue in which they reveal more about themselves. It's less of a continuous piece than a series of character studies, but it works because the way Murakami writes it invests the whole with at least the sense that something special is happening, even if it never quite seems to. I got to the end and, instead of being utterly disappointed with what should have been an essentially empty book, I couldn't help but feel that something significant had happened, even though I couldn't quite grasp what. It was probably a mistaken feeling, given the hints of deliberate non-significance, but part of the appeal of this book is that you can guess that's what's happening about half way through, and still feel it.


Dave King said...

I'm a greta fan of Murakami. Enjoyed visiting your blog.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I'm also a great fan of Murakami, though this is a book of his I haven't read.