There are few names in this day and age that strike awe into the hearts readers like Huraki Murakami, a Japanese author widely considered to be one of the greatest writers of the late 20th and early 21st century. Known for his surrealist writings Murakami began his career as an author as little more than a cult novelist, however, with his releases of Norwegian Wood and the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle he’s remained a transpacific treasure of high-end literature. His 2004 novel, After Dark, takes place over the course of a single night in a seedy district in downtown Tokyo where we follow Mari, 19, as she becomes entangled as a translator for a Chinese prostitute injured in one of the city’s love hotels.
Murakami’s aesthetics loom, rife with multicultural influences as we’re introduced to Miri as she sits alone at a Denny’s planning to spend the night there when Takahashi, a college trombonist, recognizes her and claims to know her sister Eri. Punctuating the downtown crime drama unfolding with Mari, Takahashi, and the hotel owner Kaoru; Mari’s sister sleeps in surreal, intercalary chapters where the line between fantasy and reality breaks at the surface of her TV screen. There is something slightly psychopathic about all of the characters and Murakami uses his ambiguity to keep the reader on edge throughout. Suspense held my eyes to the page from chapter to chapter where intriguing scenes full of table talk, anecdotes, and philosophical dialogue never truly revealed the intentions of any specific character, and perhaps more intriguingly the hero or heroine seems absent from the proceedings. The golden girl, Eri, lies perpetually in sleep trapped in her dreams behind the glass screen of the unplugged television. Instead, of any real answers what we’re left with is the dissipation of purpose toward the collective entity something the author represents well in the inescapable systems of modern day life; the city grid, legal system, and even pathways in our microchip technology remind us how interconnected humans truly are.