Saturday, 29 December 2007

Haruki Murakami - After Dark

From the beginning of this sad, brilliant little novel, the city after dark is a creature that seems to live, breathe and pulse. Between the time the last train leaves and the first train arrives, the places: it’s not the same as in daytime, Murakami’s narrator tells us. But what is it?

Odd things happen to two sisters, one who can’t sleep and one who can’t wake. The sleepless sister, Mari, is spending the night in fast food restaurants reading from a thick book when trombone-player, Takahashi, stops to talk to her. Later, each is involved in the questioning of a Chinese prostitute who has been beaten up at a nearby love hotel. Meanwhile, Mari’s sister, the beautiful Eri, is watched while she sleeps and as she and her bed are transported somehow inside her television set. And with what seems miraculous discipline, very little is explained, we (the narrator uses the first person plural, inviting us to observe the action as though we’re jointly a camera) move from one scene to another, each section told in a spare and elegant first person prose.
The novel is filled with screens and mirrors and strange connections. Shirakawara, responsible for beating up the prostitute, returns to his office and works on his computer, he wants nothing more than not to go home, like Mari, who can no longer bear to watch her sister. Mari’s image somehow remains in a bathroom mirror in the long moments after she has turned and left the room. Eri threatens to be lost forever as the screen behind which she is trapped flickers, its reception waning. The room where she is trapped, looks like Shirakawa’s office. Shirakawara buys a fishcake, and Takahashi later has a fishcake. But why?In the closing pages, morning approaching, we are offered some sort of solution,

a cycle has been complete, all disturbances have been resolved, perplexities have been concealed, and things have returned to their original state. Around us, cause and effect join hands, and synthesis and division maintain their equilibrium. Everything, finally, unfolded in a place resembling a deep, inaccessible fissure. Such places open secret entries into darkness in the interval between midnight and the time the sky grows light. None of our principles ahs any effect there. No one can predict when or where such abysses will swallow people, or when or where they will spit them out. (176)

Is this enough of an explanation? It is all that we are going to receive. And it works, beguiling us into believing in this pitch-perfect, mysterious little book.

No comments: