Posts Tagged ‘Haruki Murakami’

Afutãdãku (After Dark) (2004)

Haruki Murakami

Vintage, 201pp

Following my reading of Haruki Murakami’s 2008 memoir of running, reviewed previously on this blog, I retrieved from my ever-growing ‘to read’ pile, this short novella from 2004.  After Dark is slight – though the Vintage edition just fills 200 pages, it could easily lose another forty if all the white space and large clocks that begin each section were removed.  It is a novella that seems to explore a very Japanese problem – Hikikomori, or the withdrawal from public life as a conscious decision, which the sisters Mari and Eri have both decided upon, Mari by coming out only at night and Eri by sleeping for two months, and that the clients at the Alphaville Hotel seem also to be doing.

The story takes place over one night and yet has none of the blistering rush that another author might have chosen; After Dark takes its time, its rhythms dictated by Duke Ellington jazz pieces, by the French Nouvelle Vague (Alphaville, lest we forget, is a 1965 science fiction movie by Jean-Luc Godard), and by the mood Murakami wishes to create: “Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city’s moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.”

I am told that After Dark is not as arresting as some of Murakami’s other work.  If this is indeed the case, then I will most certainly be tracking down the rest of his catalogue, for I found After Dark utterly seductive; it is a novel whose languorous tone envelopes you, and is populated by characters as beguiling as they are seductive.  The tender romance that plays out between Mari and Takahashi is bittersweet, filled with longing and knowledge that this is all fleeting, a nocturnal moment that will be shattered by morning light.


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Hashiru Koto Ni Tsuite Kataru Toki Ni Boku No Kataru Koto (2008)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Haruki Murakami

Vintage, 180pp

Translated by Philip Gabriel

Haruki Murakami is one of Japan’s most celebrated novelists, and one whose novels I have yet to read, though I have After Dark, his 2004 novel in my ‘to-read’ pile. I was in a local bookstore, browsing, looking to buy something but uncertain what, and as I found a novel to read (also in that growing pile), I was offered this essay by Murakami for half-price. I said why not. I had five mile walk home, in glorious sunshine, along a peaceful and empty beach and up the Conwy Estuary homeward. I started to read Murakami’s essay. Half way along my walk I stopped and sat on the breakers, read some more, and started to walk again, still reading, along this coastal path. The odd runner passed me and I stepped aside, feeling their pain because Murakami was talking about the pain of running, but how it was a good pain, a needed pain. I got home later than I normally would have, having read almost the entirely of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I read the last chapter at home. I think the rhythm of my walking was the perfect backdrop to reading this work.

I knew nothing of Murakami’s life, or his work, when I started this, and it has proved not only an excellent introduction to the man and his life, but to his fiction. I am sure when I sit down to finally read his fiction I will be more attuned to his rhythms, fascinations and details than I otherwise would have been.

I’m no runner, though I do walk long distances quite frequently, but I found myself captivated by his descriptions of running. It made me consider running myself. That beach walk I was coming home along is a perfect running track. Doing that each day would do me wonders. But I prefer walking, I like taking my time, considering things as I go. Walking allows me to commune with nature, with myself, and with my own fiction. As novelists we have to go with what works.

Some people may wonder where this title has come from: it is an allusion to a collection of works by Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

I don’t have much to say about Murakami’s essay, other than it is excellent, and you don’t have to be interested in running to enjoy it. It is an insight into a man, his fascinations, his life, and speaks a few truths about writing that those interested in the craft will take something from. Most of all though, it has whetted my appetite for his novels.

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