After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Murkami books are always… a bit weird, to say the least. They may, or may not, feature talking cats, shadow monsters, television worlds, alternate realms, and details concerning the finer aspects of operating a bar. In the minimum one can say that it is the literary version of taking an existential mind trip. Yeah, you heard right: existentialism- Sartre style! It rears its head in some funny places but I will not embarrass myself in trying to convey the madness that is Murakami in a medium so unfitting as digital print.

The plot of After Dark is quite irrelevant. This adds to the existential theme by reinforcing notions of the Absurd and Angst. But there is a story, one which involves Mari Asari as she attempts to spend a night away from home and her perpetually sleeping sister. Along her time killing spree she gets swept up in this diversionary routine involving a Chinese prostitute and the friendly proprietors of a love motel which help her. After this encounter, early in the book, Mari is swept up in… lots of deep conversation involving, but not limited to: physical appearances, love and friendship, careers, and how to avoid gangsters and getting shanked. It is bemusing yet absurd. Additionally there is this parallel story involving her sister (Eri) and a television world; secondarily, a sub-plot involving a criminal augment the primary thread, while mirror shadows add the finishing flair. Honestly, to philosophically decode this behemoth you will need an equally monstrous hold of existential concepts. Anything less and you risk falling into either despair or ignorance. Maybe both.

After Dark is one of Murakami’s more peculiar books. The narrative is lacking in action. Instead, the characters themselves take center stage. Even so, however, they seem involved in nothing more than semi-shady deals which in reality make the bulk of the dreary reality of postmodern life. Seemingly pointless conversation leads to an equally obtuse conclusion which can be interpreted in many different ways. Yet the ending, all the same, is layered is so many shades of gray, especially Eri’s sub-plot and the role of the mirror shadows, that it nearly feels like wasted efforts simply reading through the work. Clearly this novel is something only the philosophy oriented will enjoy reading, and only due to the inevitable criticism after wards.

With all that said though I will nonetheless claim an enjoyable time with After Dark. It is a different kind of read but it is profound all the same; the mental energies required to perceive those glimpses of intellect merely obscure the underlying gems. Other Murakami works certainly have more action or are less eccentric (though still weird in their own right). So if you are the type of individual who loves coherence and straight forward narratives, this is not likely to be on your radar. But if you are the opposite, this will shine like the Hindenburg.

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