I’ve wanted to read Murakami’s work for a while now. It was one of those authors whose name would pop up every now and then, just enough to arouse my curiosity. One day, as I was wandering through a bookstore, I saw a few of his books lined up on a shelf and decided to pick one. After Dark felt like a good choice, because it was short (and I thought I’d start small) and the name was intriguing.
From the very first pages I had the feeling of being drawn into a strange environment, some sort of autopsy room where Murakami was the coroner performing the operation of cutting the flesh open. He uses his pen like a surgeon would use a scalpel, making a precise incision, exposing exactly the parts that he wants his readers to see. And we look, mesmerized, unable to move or think of anything else while he works away, slicing briefly here and there, making us draw closer, horrified and fascinated at the same time.
The narrative starts on a well defined path which little by little takes us from the real world into the realm of fantasy and back again.
The characters are well shaped and each of them vulnerable and mysterious. Over the course of one night, their lives intertwine in unexpected ways.
The action revolves around Mari, a 19 year old college student who spends a night in a diner, hoping for some temporary relief, a brief escape from the oppressed atmosphere at home. There she meets young Takahashi, a wannabe musician, and what seems an awkward encounter at first, changes gradually as the two of them start talking, sharing brief episodes of their lives, getting to know each other.
The dialogue is captivating, with unexpected turns, making it yet another tool which the author uses to expose more of his characters’ lives. Drama is ever present, and beneath their seemingly calm appearance, people’s feelings are raw, confessions abound and impressions change.
The final pages don’t bring closure but it’s more like the end of a phase and the beginning of another. There is plenty of mystery left but also the unspoken reassurance of hope, fragile yet palpable.
Read in September 2010