Trans. by Jay Rubin
London, Vintage, 2008, 201p
Whenever I read Murakami, it takes a lot of time. His words and language deserve a special sort of attention, so I read slowly, re-reading select passages, absorbing every detail. I love the way he writes, like each word has been carefully thought out, selected with care and affection. And in translation from Japanese to English, Jay Rubin is an artist, recreating Murakami's original beauty for the Western reader.
After Dark is a uniquely mysterious novel. It draws you in with intrigue, but leaves all your questions unanswered. Set in Tokyo across one night, between the hours of sunrise and sunset, it tells the story of a number of people scattered across the city.
In a quiet diner, Mari's peace is interrupted by a boy she once knew. At home, her sister, Eri, sleeps - undisturbed for a long time, until the television screen flickers into life. And at a love hotel across town, a woman has been abused, left naked and alone. We, the reader, observe everything through a omniscient camera lense, neutral and unable to interfere, zooming in and out of details across the city.
The opening line of the novel is, "Eyes mark the shape of the city". From here, you are drawn into a vivid, dense description of Toyko from above. We are told it looks like "a single gigantic creature", all "arteries" and "blood cells". It is bright and beautiful and enticing. We are caught.
Murakami has complete control over the events in his novel, leaving the reader helplessly following along. The drama quietly creeps up on you. At first, nothing seems to be going on and you revel in the detail. Slowly, people are introduced, and strange happenings begin.
Some pages of this novel I read again and again - I wish it never had to end. Sitting on my shelf, I have two more of his books, but I am reluctant to start simply because I will not want them to end!