I just completed my first book for The Japanese Challenge “After Dark” by
Haruki Murakami. This was also in fact my first Japanese novel ever.
“After Dark” starts in a Denny’s, a comfortable familiar place in the night world of Tokyo. The characters in the story are at once beautifully individuated with just a few brush strokes.
“She reads with great concentration. Her eyes rarely move from the pages of her book….She just keeps reading her book, lighting an occasional cigarette, mechanically tipping back her coffee cup, and hoping the time moves faster”.
As the book proceeds we are drawn further into the Tokyo night world. We meet a number of interesting people along the way. Like Dickens and Balzac before him Marukami brings to light aspects of the city that fall below the radar of those safely out of the margins.
“The garbage trucks have not yet collected all of the garbage. This a giant city, after all, and it produces a prodigious amount of garbage”.
A central character in the novel, Mari, uses her books to hide, to make her self invisible. She lives partially in the shadow of her sister’s beauty. Mari is a reader as hider. The Tokyo night world also helps her hide. She and we learn to read the night and the city from writers like Murakami.
I like “After Dark” a lot. It was a good first Japanese novel for me as it is not hard to read at all and it is not that long