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May 29, 2007

Rohit Reviews: After Dark

After Dark

Considering my predilection for reading (and writing) about such dour and oppressive subjects as Russian literature, William Faulkner, and existentialism, it may come as no uncertain surprise to many readers that I simultaneously possess a consummate, almost inexplicable affinity towards Magic Realism. And yet, since my earliest exposure to the genre with El Coronel No Tiene Quien Le Escriba in high school—incidentally in the original Spanish—and later, Cien Años de Soledad in college (this was in English translation), both by famed Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, I have been fascinated by the manner in which stories in this genre combine both the intensely real and the utterly fantastic to weave a truly hypnotic tale of human existence. As such, one can imagine the excitement with which I picked up Haruki Murakami's (one of the few contemporary authors I read—thanks nrt for the introduction) latest book, After Dark, after reading a review in the Economist, and only a few weeks after its U.S. release.

After Dark takes place over the course of a single night in Tokyo and is the tale of two sisters, Mari, a freshman in college who begins her sleepless night avoiding her house (and family) reading at a Denny's, and Eri, her fashion model sister, who remains asleep throughout the book (at least physically). As the story unfolds, we omnisciently learn of the violent brutalization of a Chinese prostitute by an otherwise indistinguishable businessman, and watch as Mari engages with a vague acquaintance that knew her sister and later, the manager and staff of the love hotel where the assault occurred.

Fundamentally, After Dark is a study of so-called night dwellers: those individuals that spend their nights in the city, individuals with dark pasts and perhaps, darker futures. As an exploration of these characters, it possesses the same humor and insight that characterize all of Murakami's works, but stylistically, it is a departure from the first-person narratives in such classics as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. My feeling is that those who found genius in such earlier works may not appreciate After Dark as much, but it is hard to know for sure.

As for me, personally, however, I would highly recommend this novel. At approximately 200 pages, it is an enigmatic and mesmerizing page turner (I finished it in one sitting in about 2.5 hours), and captures the restive, intoxicating feeling of the wee hours with masterful veracity. It is definitely distinct from Murakami's earlier stories, and in some ways, perhaps a transitional work for the author, but still definitely worth the time and money for almost anyone, fans and non-fans alike. Overall, four stars of five.


what the heck, already done?!?!
you crazy motha.
i hope your patriot party went well! pics pics!

"I finished it in one sitting in about 2.5 hours".

Ladeefreakingda. You'd beat Chuck Norris in a speed-reading contest.

I really identified with this review, especially the part about late night eating at Denny's.

Chuck Norris doesn't need to speed read; he simply devours the brain of the appropriate author. And I suppose it is better to identify with late night eating at Denny's than late night anything at love hotels.

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