four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-After DarkJust before midnight in Tokyo, 19-year-old Mari Asai can’t sleep. She seeks refuge in an all-night Denny’s, intending to read, but her solitude is interrupted by Takahashi, a young jazz musician who used to know Mari’s older sister, Eri. When a Chinese prostitute is viciously assaulted by a client at a nearby "love hotel," Takahashi leads the hotel’s owner to Mari, having just learned that Mari speaks fluent Chinese. Soon Mari and Takahashi are in pursuit of the villain, a bored salaryman named Shirakawa. The alternating stories of Mari and Shirakawa are intermingled with surreal chapters featuring Eri, who has been asleep for two months.
Knopf. 191 pages. $22.95. ISBN: 0307265838

Denver Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"After Dark fully fulfills expectations, but its slim size and short chapters make it arguably the most accessible of his work. … The ‘aha’ moment is magnificent and followed immediately by a kind of unbridled admiration for the writer— because it is right and because the reader never sees it coming." Robin Vidimos

Providence Journal 4.5 of 5 Stars
"This strange, mesmerizing, spell-binding, voyeuristic novel is impossible to put down. … Murakami in a postmodern sleight-of-hand keeps us aware of his point of view, as if we were cameras looking down from above, peering from odd angles, sweeping in over the city, or retreating into dark corners and silent rooms." Sam Coale

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"Like a latter-day Walker Percy or Albert Camus, Murakami raises questions about perception and existence, though he feels no compunction to propose answers. For him, the intrigue is in the engaging situations and conversations even alienated individuals encounter as they wend their hapless way through their often bewildering lives." Heller McAlpin

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"The style is energetically cinematic, akin to reading a movie script with its detailed descriptions of surroundings, character motivations and camera movements. … In Murakami’s talented hands, After Dark emerges a tightly controlled narrative, carefully constructed in both time and place." Lee Makela

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"After Dark is a bittersweet novel that will satisfy the most demanding literary taste. It is a sort of neo-noir flick set in half-empty diners, dark streets and hotel rooms straight out of the paintings of Edward Hopper." Juvenal Acosta

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 3.5 of 5 Stars
"After Dark is Murakami condensed. It’s a very good place to become familiar with some of his interests (music) and themes (loneliness) in a truncated version." Robert Allen Papinchak

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"He is less successful with Eri’s bedroom limbo, the least compelling component to the tripartite plot, because he rides a repetitive test pattern shtick that grows tedious. … After Dark doesn’t always hit the high notes, but it is, like Takahashi’s music, straight-ahead jazz—with a quiet grace as likely to be overlooked as a snare shuffle." Edward Champion

Critical Summary

Other than an unexpected cheerfulness, After Dark is classic Haruki Murakami, featuring themes of loneliness and alienation, carefully crafted characters, Western references (such as an all-night Denny’s where Hall & Oates plays in the background), and distinctive magical-realist twists of fate. Critics also praised the impassive, omniscient narration, like a constantly shifting video camera, which renders each scene in magnificent detail. The chief complaint was the brevity of the novel, and the Los Angeles Times felt that Eri’s dreamlike scenes missed the mark as well. "For the unfamiliar, it’s the perfect appetizer. For the established fan, it’s a quick work that is over far too soon" (Denver Post).

Also by the Author

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1998): The Los Angeles Times called this highly imaginative novel an "expansive masterpiece." In it, Toru Okada’s cat goes missing, which sets off a chain of events that will turn his life upside down.