Haruki Murakami is known for writing surreal fiction, and that can be seen in After Dark. Taking place in a single night, the novel focuses on Eri and Mari Asai. The sisters are vastly different to each other, but are connected by a sense of loneliness. After Dark stirs up a lot of emotions, with Murakami using various techniques to keep the reader guessing what will happen next.
The world of night
The story begins at 11.56 pm, with Mari sitting alone in a Japanese Denny’s. Soon, she’s joined by another student called Takahashi. Their meeting sets up an incident where Mari is taken to a love hotel to help out a Chinese prostitute who was abused by a client. Meanwhile, Eri is shown to be trapped in a deep sleep. It appears she’s being held captive by the sinister Man with No Face, but not everything is as it seems.
Over the course of the novel, we’re shown the difference between Mari and Eri. Mari is bookish, quiet and uncomfortable in her own skin. Eri is the beautiful sibling who was given everything and had big things expected of her. Despite being so different, the sisters are bound together by isolation. Even though she’s beautiful, Eri remains static and locked within her sleep. Mari is given the opportunity to grow as a person and learn about herself.
Frozen in place
Murakami’s writing style makes it seem as if the reader is a spectator and the story is happening on a screen. I was surprised at how powerless I felt when seeing the plot unfold. It’s a testament to Murakami’s skill that he can create that kind of reaction. Another technique he uses is having the image of a clock at the beginning of each chapter. This gives the reader an indication of what time it is and their place within the story.
“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with someone else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.”
After Dark shows how grim the world can be when the sun goes down. This is juxtaposed against the kindness of strangers and how we have to watch out for each other in times of uncertainty. You can buy After Dark on Amazon.