Toriaz

After Dark
Haruki Murakami

Reviewed by: Toriaz
Category: Magic Realism
Date Read: 6 March 2017
No. Pages: 201
Published: 2004

I really don't know what to write about this book. It was a quick read, could probably be read in a day if you have uninterrupted reading time. I only had my trips to and from work to read it, and hated having to pack it away as each trip ended. I just wanted to keep reading, to find out what would happen.

And what does happen? The quick answer is, not much. A character talks to people. In several languages. She walks around a little, and sits in different bars and restaurants. There is sleeping. A character gets sucked into a TV screen, several characters buy milk. And somehow this is fascinating to read. I just don't know what to say about it.

Everything happens in a single night. We can follow the timing by the clocks that head each each chapter. There is an ephemeral kind of feeling to it, that we are not really part of this world.

We mostly follow Mari, as she spends a night in Tokyo, trying to stay awake. She has brief interactions with different people, each encounter separated by us leaving to observe people, mostly Eri, Mari's beautiful sister, as she sleeps, or sometimes Shirakawa.

We view this all from a distance. We are observers only, not allowed or even able to interact with what we see. We only see what the characters see, and hear what they say. We never know their thoughts, but we do have a narrator who speculates on what is happening, and what it might mean. There are strange interconnections between people who never meet. Why does Eri, beyond the screen, find a pencil that Shirakawa had in his office as he works through the night? Takahashi picks up the low fat milk in a shop, rejects it and instead buys the full fat milk. Soon after, Shirakawa comes into the shop and buys the low fat milk, probably the bottle Takahashi put back. The man on the motorcycle stops next to a taxi in traffic, but fails to see Shirakawa, who he is searching for, inside the taxi.

Sleep seems to be an important part of the story. Eri has been sleeping for months, and has no intention of waking up. But something strange is happening to her while she is asleep. Is her sleeping her way of withdrawing from the world? Does she come back because of her own actions, or is it Mari who brings her back? Mari can't sleep in her house, where her sister has slept perfectly for two months straight. She is deliberately staying away, sitting in a family restaurant, reading and trying to stay awake. Later, at a love hotel, she talks to Korogi and afterwards is finally able to sleep, with a look of relief on her face. Korogi herself says she is scared to sleep, as her nightmares might come back. Takahashi says he can sleep easily, at any time or in any place. Shirakawa is exhausted after working all night, but can't sleep. He knows something is bothering him, but doesn't know what. He wants to be asleep before his family wakes up, but we leave before we see if he manages to do this.

The ending felt ambiguous to me. It is now daytime. Has everything now ended, with everyone able to move on? Or is this how it is every night? We will never know.

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