After Dark by Haruki Murakami (2004) Review
After Dark chronicles the lives of a group of people through the hours after midnight up to early dawn. At its center are two sisters—Eri, a slumbering fashion model, and Mari, a young student soon led from solitary reading at an anonymous Denny’s restaurant. From Denny’s, Mari’s life intersect towards people radically different from her own: a jazz trombonist, a burly female “love hotel” manager and her maid staff, and a Chinese prostitute. These “night people” are soon drawn to one another, haunted by past secrets and difficult tragedies.
There is something about the nighttime. The calming atmosphere as the sun sets down and as every human lies back to their cot, ready to dream. The gleaming moonlight casting shadows over the trees of a park, an algid breeze rustling over the leaves of dead plants. Most are asleep, though there are a few people, nocturnal humans who roam the streets alone, the occasional sounds of children at play absent. These people (I, particular, am one) are those who sink into the realms of their subtle consciousness, diving into the deep divide between fantasy and reality, a surreal niagara barreling through their minds, sending them away from the realism of the outside world.
Murakami captures this mood perfectly. Setting over only the course of one night, this 200-paged novel adequately captures the feeling of how it is once the midnight hour clocks in. This is not a novel of plot but more of forming that certain atmosphere through description, character dialogue, and exposition.
The way Murakami writes and describes his events is very lyrical, but it doesn’t border to the phase of over-the-top and shimmery purple prose. It is just all right. That is complemented by the short page-length of the novel, never rushing the events nor dragging them on for too long.
The character dialogue and exposition are what make this novel magical as well. People usually say that the human mind is most open at night, making them vulnerable, making them reveal secrets that they once won’t reveal in the first place. This is exemplified in the story through the various interconnected relational chats the characters have with each other during specific intersections. The exposition helped develop the mood, though it set a good standpoint for the introduction of the characters.
After Dark is another Murakami masterpiece, a simplified narrative of mood that is easy to get into, especially for those who haven’t started his works. One may lose appeal due to the lack of a cohesive plot, though the scattered chunks of events help more with the nocturnal and dreamlike feeling one may usually get during the late hours of the night. It’s still worth a try, for this novel has one of the most established moods I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended, especially for nighttime reading.