Murakami's 'After Dark' Set in Tokyo
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
The Japanese neo-modernist fiction writer, Haruki Murakami, first entered the U.S. literary scene in 1989 with "A Wild Sheep Chase." He has since published close to a dozen works in English translation. Murakami's latest short novel is set in Tokyo and it's titled "After Dark."
Here's our reviewer Alan Cheuse.
ALAN CHEUSE: Murakami tells the story of Mari, a 19-year-old student of Chinese, stealing away from her family to stay up all night at a Tokyo Denny's. She meets a young musician, a friend of her sister, a young woman afflicted by a propensity to sleep constantly.
He's rehearsing his amateur jazz group by night at a nearby warehouse. Next thing Mari knows, the manager of a nearby Love Hotel comes to the restaurant, seeking her help.
Suddenly, she's caught up in assorted drama, featuring a prostitute, a businessman and local gangsters. But there's a higher drama that comes with the onset of darkness, and that's when the naturalistic underpinnings of Murakami's nocturnal scenario fall away. Time both expands and contracts. As a bartender at a neighborhood joint points out, time moves in its own special way in the middle of the night. You can't fight it.
Chapters shift to include sequences about Mari's sleeping sister, whom we watch through what Murakami calls a viewpoint camera - not unlike the one capturing a masked man in a room, watching the sleeping girl on a screen.
A similar transference born out of jazz aesthetics seems to govern what happens to route after dark. You send a music deep enough into your heart, says Mari's musician friend, so that it makes your body undergo a kind of physical shift and simultaneously, the listener's body also undergoes the same kind of physical shift.
When it comes to the fiction of Haruki Murakami, maybe the reader's body, too.
NORRIS: The novel is "After Dark" by Haruki Murakami. Our reviewer, Alan Cheuse, teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. He's the editor of the new anthology, "Seeing Ourselves: Great Stories of America's Past."
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