Trysts After Dark

One ordinary night, a girl chooses not to go home but stay up in a seedy part of town, reading in a restaurant and drinking coffee. An acquaintance stops by- she isn’t particularly interested in him, but over the course of the night, in further encounters, opens up to him and sees a part of herself that has, over the years, been hidden away in layers of misunderstanding and confusion.

After Dark is compelling. In an intense evocation of the mysteries of the night, Haruki Murakami conjures up a world that is fascinating and intriguing. A girl slips into a deep, incomprehensible sleep that is nothing like the ordinary- elsewhere, her younger sister tries to run away from it by staying up all night. Out on her own in the streets of Tokyo, she finds herself in an unlikely adventure that teaches her how lucky and blessed her own life is- for she could easily have been that Chinese prostitute smuggled into the country by coldly callous men, cruelly stripped and left to fend for herself in a ‘love hotel’ for something that wasn’t her fault. And the perpetrator of the crime sits at his table in the morning, eating yoghurt, wanting to go to bed before his unsuspecting family wakes up- like nothing ever happened. Murakami is extremely realistic, weaving an atmosphere that singes you with its burning brutality- and you can see the pictures form in your head, the camera he points at the characters shifting across the cityscape. The sinister atmosphere of the night, the traditional fear of it lingers through the novel, all heightened by the alleyways and dank hotels where it is set, and the alternate dreaming and awakening.

People are running away from themselves, from other people, getting caught in what isn’t their business and not wanting to be a part of it; forcing themselves to do things they aren’t sure they want to do, living out dreams before that final push into reality from which there is no coming back. The aspiring lawyer practices on his trombone all night, the young girl teaches herself Chinese and gains strength from perversity, allowing her sister‘s beauty to create a barrier between them and make her stand up for what she wants. The lady at the ‘Alphaville’ and the woman who helps out there have had more respectable lives, but through some weird twist of fate, are now cleaning up after other people’s prurient fests.

Ordinary people have plenty of stories to tell. Odd, but true, how the best people to tell them to are total strangers- and there’s nothing quite like the night and the security of the dark to let these tales unravel.

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Posted on April 3, 2010, in Books. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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