After Dark – Haruki Murakami

September 19, 2009 § 8 Comments


It’s not as if our lives are divided simply into light and dark. There’s a shadowy middle ground.

There is so much about this book that I like and find thought provoking, but this quote sums up quite a bit of my thoughts about the book. Yet again, Murakami presents to me a story that is as embedded in reality as it is floating in fantasy.

The story telling technique used in this book is rather unusual, but unusual is what I’ve come to expect of Murakami and his writing. We are told right from the beginning that we are only a viewpoint, a camera floating in space, not having the capacity to participate in all that happens. Like camera viewports, we can only see what is within the rectangular frame, and we make up the rest of what we can’t view with our own imaginations.

This book reads much like watching a movie, but gives us the insight of a book. It is very intriguing, to say the least, as it’s not every day that I come across such a story. It’s almost like a study of contrasts, pulling into pieces the workings of a movie while keeping to the formalities of a book, jumping from place to place while still keeping within the same time frame.

And like most Japanese work that I’ve read, there is substantial reference to light and shadow.

Mari asks the bartender, “Don’t you ever play anything but LPs?”
“I don’t like CDs,” he replies.
“Why not?”
“They’re too shiny.”

This little piece of conversation here reminded me much of Tanizaki’s work, In Praise of Shadows. Perhaps we don’t really realise it, but the gadgets and tools that we use these days do seem to carry that shiny tinge with it, like as if it is a given that modern people like all things that shine and sparkle.

The mask possesses equal levels of sorcery and functionality. It has been both handed down from ancient times with darkness and sent back from the future with light.

Again here, Murakami refers to the past as darkness, and the future as light. Again it implies how we perceive light and shadow, and how darkness and all the subtleties that come associated with it have now become undesirable.

This here is a story, I feel, about balance. There is this world, and then there is that other world. They both exist together, feed off each other, and both will cease to exist if any one disappears. There is an endless connection from me to you and back to me again. No matter how insignificant we feel about ourselves, or how far apart we may be, there is this web of connectivity that keeps all things in balance.


This may not be my favourite Murakami read so far, but it has been one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in quite a while. Hence my rather weird review of the book, which reads more like my own little tangent flying off from a couple of phrases picked out of the book. That’s probably why I call these posts my “thoughts”, rather than reviews, because more often than not, I tend to fly off tangents and write about things that may or may not concern the actual book.

But I digress.

This is, truly, a great piece of writing.

Rating: 4.5


§ 8 Responses to After Dark – Haruki Murakami

  • Tony says:

    It’s a lovely little book, which was actually greeted with a mixed reception by many Murakami fans when it first came out. However, I really liked it, especially as it reminded me of Japanese nightlife (not that I frequented the kind of places mentioned here…). I wish a translation of ‘1Q84’ was in sight though!

  • Mel U says:

    Your comments about the light and dark imagery were very interesting (I had to avoid the impulse to say it was \illuminating\)-for me I enjoyed the partial look \After Dark\ gave us of the Tokyo night world-of people not fully of the night-

  • Bellezza says:

    I, too, like your comments about shadow/light/dark. I also like how you bring in the point of balance. It’s not one that readily occurred to me when I first read After Dark, but I can see what you mean. Understanding Murakami takes multiple perspectives, I think, and he always leaves us with something to think about long after we’ve finished the book.

  • su says:

    @Tony: It does describe Japanese nightlife quite well (of which I too do not know much of except what I can tell from watching Japanese dramas). And like you, I’m looking forward to the translation of ‘1Q84’.

    @ Mel: I think Murakami writes about people very well. And he always integrates it so well with whatever other theme there is within the book.

    @ Bellezza: I agree with you. Murakami certainly writes in layers, and it would probably take me more than two readings to fully grasp any of his stories.

  • Mark David says:

    Oh I loved this book and I’m glad you loved it too. Totally agree about the “unusual” storytelling style and how it plays out like watching a movie. I also noticed that thing about light, but it’s so perceptive of you to observe the thing about balance (how do you manage to do that while reading in such a fast pace??? I’m envious). Very insightful review. I love it 🙂

  • Nadia says:

    Great post! I loved this book! At first I wasn’t so sure I liked it but once I began to discuss it with a friend of mine I realized how much I had really enjoyed the book. I had so much to say about it and I definitely recommend it all the time. Its quite an interesting read and I do agree with you about the unusual story telling style Murakami used. Most definitely a must read for any Murakami fan!

  • Susan says:

    “. . . we are only a viewpoint, a camera floating in space, not having the capacity to participate in all that happens. . . .” And of course we are exactly like those cameras, seeing what we want to see depending on our “eye” and where we’re floating.

    Agh! Now I’m (almost) sorry I read your review, because now I must add Murakami to my list of must-read authors–and I was trying to cut back! ; )

  • su says:

    @ Mark David: Oh, I’m not nearly as perceptive as you think I am, or as I would like to be. But thanks, really, for liking what I’ve posted. It’s always great to feel appreciated. 🙂

    @ Nadia: I know what you mean about initially not really liking it. It didn’t quite strike me as one of his best when I started it, though it did seem very promising. But like you said, it’s the kind of story that grows on you.

    @ Susan: Then I’m glad my post here has convinced you to add Murakami to your list! He’s got some really great stuff, you just have to try it for yourself to know if his style is for you.

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