2004. 191 pages. Hardcover.
From: the public library
In a nutshell:
The book follows a small group of characters over the course of one night. 19-year-old Mari reads by herself in an all-night diner and meets an acquaintance from the past. This chance meeting indirectly draws Mari into the aftermath of a violent attack on a Chinese prostitute. Meanwhile, Mari’s sister Eri deeply sleeps where an unplugged tv ominously flickers.
I was intrigued about this book when I read a review of it in the blog, Book Dilettante. I like movies where events happen over the course of one night, so I liked the idea of After Dark: surreal encounters that occur while most are asleep. Also, I wanted to read a book by Haruki Murakami. I know that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore are more known and liked, but After Dark was the one on the shelf at the library.
I liked the weird aspects of the small book, such as the strangeness that surrounds Eri’s sleep. Or how a turn in the plot finds an abandoned cell phone ringing in a store, where anyone who picks it up hears threats on their life.
I was disappointed in the book overall, though. I wasn’t expecting a grand story, but for a book that is the equivalent of an all-nighter, I was hoping to feel a more coherent mood and atmosphere. I got that in spots, but not as the whole.
Mostly, though, I didn’t care for the writing style. I’m thinking a large part of this could be a translation issue. The dialogue didn’t feel natural and came off very flat, almost as if the wrong English words were chosen in the effort to approximate casual talk. There were ‘gonna’s’ and “whaddya mean’ and stuff like that. And so, so, many ‘uh-huh’s’. As I’ve watched some Japanese films, I’m guessing that the ‘uh-huh’ is a translation of the Japanese quick assenting “hai”. I’d rather the ‘hai’ have been kept, really. I don’t think that uh-huh’s even accurately capture the English noise of assent.
A different type of stylistic choice that I didn’t care for was the ‘we’ perspective held throughout the book. ‘We’ are the swooping camera observing these characters, particularly with Eri’s scenes, which makes some sense as that character is a model. But I found this perspective to be artificial and cumbersome, rather than thought-provoking.
I’m not going to take this book as an indicator of my future reaction to Murakami and it won’t keep me from trying another book of his. If you have read Murakami, recommendations are welcome. Also, has anyone read a translated book and suspected that the translation was inadequate? I’d be interested to hear if others have experienced this.