Book Review: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Cami Peck, Staff Writer

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is well-known for his unique writing style and ambiguous works of both fiction and non fiction. He has written more than 20 novels since his first book Hear the Wind Sing, was published in 1979. Murakami’s book After Dark is the author’s ninth book and is similar yet original in comparison to all his other works.

Although After Dark was published in 2004, the points discussed in the book are still entirely relevant today. Murakami explores many different social and psychological topics that are still relatable to people in modern society. While reading After Dark, readers may discover many new ideas that encourage them to dig deeper into subjects such as the character of human beings and just how complex they can be. In a society where being able to empathize is so important, After Dark could even allow one the opportunity to further understand those around them.

After Dark follows the story of Mari, a young Japanese girl living in Tokyo, Japan. Mari is a quiet girl who tends to keep to herself and stay out of trouble. However, on one particular night she decides to tell her parents she is going to a friend’s house and instead takes a train into the city. Split between multiple settings, this book flips between Mari’s late-night experience in downtown Tokyo, her sister Eri’s seemingly never-ending sleep and the life of a Japanese businessman working a late night at the office. As Mari wanders around the city of Tokyo she meets Takahashi, a young musician and soon-to-be lawyer who went to school with her sister. Soon enough, Mari and Takahashi begin to talk and the rest of the night ensues. Although it feeds off into a few different points of view, the novel subtly works on analyzing the theory of the duality of human nature. This theory can take on many different meanings but in the case of After Dark it most closely refers to the idea that there are two contrasting parts to each person’s personality. Through each character, Murakami makes a point of showing the reader both sides of their personality. Mari is reserved and shy but she can also be daring and confident. In addition, Takahashi is friendly and lighthearted yet can also be extremely serious and profound. The way in which Murakami is able to use storytelling through fiction to discuss philosophical and psychological theories aids in giving the reader a better understanding of said theories and of how they may present themselves. All taking place within the span of a single night, Murakami does a great job of turning just a few hours worth of story into a philosophical journey that feels nothing short of fulfilling.

There are many different aspects of After Dark that justify it being described as “unique.” For example, the way in which Murakami writes the readers’ points of view is unique in itself. Between the three storylines, the readers are consciously seen within the book as an outside presence looking in. At the same time, Murakami switches perspective many times depending on which storyline is the focus. Another distinct characteristic of After Dark is the timeframe in which this story transpires. Throughout the whole 244 page novel, the entire narrative is unfolding from 11:56 at night to 6:52 in the morning, focusing on only about seven hours of a single night. Murakami’s ability to take a story occuring during such a short amount of time and stretch it into a book that feels neither deficient nor overly crammed with detail is extremely impressive and only goes on to further prove his talent as a writer. Just as impressive, Murakami is also extremely skilled at achieving a deeper-level meaning behind his writing while also not digging too deeply into the details of After Dark. With many questions remaining at the end of the novel, there are also many answers found within the novel that one may have never thought to ask about in the first place.

In reading After Dark, there is no questioning the profound thought that Murakami puts into his writing. From underlying character analysis to a creative take on the reader’s point-of-view, he definitely knows how to tell a story. The creativity and depth Murakami achieves in After Dark introduces many original ideas that make this book an interesting and refreshing read.