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Essence Precedes Interest

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Reviewed by Anya Yurchyshyn

Haruki Murakami's characters tend to watch their lives from up high. They want to belong. They want purpose. They want love. But they're too removed to get any of that on their own. So what Murakami gives them is a reality rattling so mysterious and illuminating that they're literally shaken back down to earth.

The sisters at the center of Murakami's latest novella, After Dark, are no exception. Over the course of a single night in Tokyo, we follow Eri and Mari as they confront their self-imposed disconnection. Eri wanders through Tokyo's underbelly, meeting a female ex-wrestler and a battered Chinese prostitute. Her sister sleeps soundly at home. Too soundly, in fact -- she's been asleep for two months. Yet, whether awake or asleep, these sisters share the same overwhelming ennui that all Murakami's characters do. And we watch and wait as he does his thing -- tilting, shifting, reorientating them.

After Dark is not Murakami's best work -- there's an intrusive narrator spoon-feeding meaning you'd prefer to find on your own. But Murakami's humor and pop culture references remain, as do the underlying questions about the human condition. In another writer's hands, you might feel like you're back in freshman philosophy. And this is why even average Murakami is good. He's not preachy or pessimistic. His stories contain questions, not absolutes. If only Nietzsche and Sartre had made questioning the meaninglessness of existence so fun.

One Response to "Essence Precedes Interest"

    The Hidden Side of a Leaf » Blog Archive » After Dark by Haruki Murakami August 27th, 2008 at 7:53 am

    [...] Anyway, a few people warned me that After Dark is not the best Murakami book to start with, an even the Esquire review featured at Powell’s says: “After Dark is not Murakami’s best work — there’s an intrusive narrator [...]

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