Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Witching Hour

AFTER DARK Haruki Murakami
Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin

Night-time in Tokyo. Jazz and pop standards play at seedy restaurants while a trombonist tries to befriend an insomniac teenager in a cafĂ©, a former wrestler-turned-manager of a ‘love hotel’ called Alphaville deals with a bloody assault on one of the residents, and an American Psycho-type character recuperates after a dark deed. Hovering above all of these is the spectre of another young woman, in a coma in a room with a TV set that has mysterious powers of absorption.

This, then, is trademark Murakami, dealing with one surreal night in the lives of disaffected young Japanese searching for connection. (Along the way, he has fun with the conventions of third-person point-of-view, making it as much of a disinterested observer as the rest.) Murakami fans will find nothing to let them down here, although it must be said that his novels work best when stringing together a series of unsettling, unfathomable images – without relying too much on dialogue that descends into the banal, which is the case with After Dark.

Worth your while? If you’ve read and liked Murakami before, go ahead; if not, you’d be better off with some of his earlier works such as Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

No comments: