Thursday, May 19, 2011

After Dark by Haruki Murami

Finally..after years of dilly-dallying,i managed to read Murakami. I don't really know if i am a fan of his writing yet ,but i have to accept that i am slightly rattled. After Dark is a deeply dark novel about a bunch of people and the things that happen to them in a span of 7 hours of the night.

Mari sips her coffee in a diner and has a book for company.Soon, a young musician joins her and they realise that they are acquainted through Mari's sister,Eri. After the young man leaves, Mari is jolted from her book by a lady who wants her help in translating the words of a Chinese prostitute who has been beaten in a hotel.The prostitute can't speak any Japanese and Mari can speak Chinese.Mari decides to accompany the lady and help the prostitute.Meanwhile,Eri is sprawled in her bedroom in deep sleep and strange things happen in the room. Actually,Eri is gripped by a strange illness-she has been sleeping continuously for the last 2 months.

As the night unfolds,Mari has several conversations with the hotel manager,the helps and the young man.Everything is so surreal and unsettling that you really start wondering whether some part of the book is fantasy-especially the part where the narrator describes the scenes where Eri is sleeping. This is most definitely not a book for someone who puts the plot ahead of everything else in a book.It is for someone who likes meandering words .A huge part of the book is devoted to vivid descriptions of simple human actions like brushing teeth or unbuttoning of a shirt or some other arcane detail which we normally wouldn't give too much importance to . Infact,the whole book is like some really slick art movie in black and white with the lead characters moving around with bone-wrenching slowness.

Of course,you have huge doses of philosophy thrown in and most of the book is in the form of dialogue between people.I really didnt want to like Mari or Eri or the young man or the other characters.But at the end of the book,I realized that my involvement with the characters had grown and I found myself wanting some form of closure for the feelings and emotions the characters go through.That is probably the strength of the book-it just grows on you. The words are beautiful and pull you into deep pools of contemplation.

Despite the slowness and the gloom,i think i enjoyed the book. Yet a deep,unsatisfactory feeling is lingering on even several hours after i finished reading the book. 4/5 for the master of gloom and surrealism.

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