After Dark by Haruki Murakami is on many American summer reading lists - from Vogue, to the New York Times, to Boldtype. Of course I just had to get my own copy. I wish I had read it in one night, to get the full experience of the short novel. For the setting is one night, from 11:56 p.m. to 6:52 a.m., in Tokyo. Alas, I got sleepy so I read After Dark on and off over two weeks. :)
After Dark is about the obvious and not-so-obvious connections between 19-year-old Mari Asai (the main character) and her older sister Eri, a jazz trombonist, the manager of a “love hotel” and her staff, and a Chinese prostitute and the man who beat her. After Dark is about the beauty of the late hours. And I say that the time from night to dawn is parallel to Mari’s “journey” to finding herself and to finding friends and possibly even love. More importantly, that time from night to dawn is symbolic of Mari’s “journey” closer to her sister Eri.
It’s true that Murakami’s story threads (such as the one in After Dark) aren't “resolved." But who says narratives have to be conclusive? Literature reflects life and we usually don't have neat, tight little endings for the real "stories" of our lives...
I think the triumph of After Dark, in terms of writing technique, is its point of view (as in point of view, the element of fiction). Murakami uses a point of view so palpable that it can be considered a character in the novel. The omniscient voice is so effective that it is like we are witnessing everything while holding hands with the narrator. Such precise details are given that the main characters’ actions are very vivid.
After Dark is not one of Murakami’s best works. It's good, but in a very quiet way. I just have to add that the critics are right: Murakami makes poetry out of contemporary life. (I think he is able to do this through the tone and atmosphere of his fiction). After Dark and his other works remind me that life is beautiful.