Haruki Murakami (1949- )
After Dark (2007)
Late at night, in a diner in downtown Tokyo, a girl sits alone reading a book. Mari has allowed herself to miss the last train and so is committed to spending the night downtown, away from home. Instead of the uneventful night of reading she imagined, she finds her path crossing with an acquaintance, a chance meeting that leads her into a series of encounters with those who work and play in the city after midnight. She finds the city transformed at night into a new and different reality than is present during the day when the streets are filled with light and people.
Murakami's novel follows Mari through the night as the long hours and strange meetings she has break down her reticence and she gradually reveals why she has decided to avoid going home this night. By the arrival of dawn it is as though she has completed a long journey --- in reality only a handful of hours have past, but psychologically she has reached a far shore from where she started at dusk.
Mari and the other characters in this novel reveal themselves slowly, in fits and starts, as they grow comfortable with the strangers they meet and befriend on the empty nighttime streets. The novel carries the reader through the scenes as though we are watching from behind a movie camera (at times Murakami uses this technique explicitly) that is moving through the city, settling for a time in one place, then shifting its focus to a new situation, slowly piecing together inter-relationships that are sometimes only dimly, if at all, visible to the characters. Murakami's light touch and gentle pace leave you feeling as though you are 'reading' a series of related paintings; paintings in which you can 'hear' the story develop as your eyes drifted from one scene to the next.
Other reviews / information:
by Walter Kirn in The New York Times
by M. Kellner on the California Literary Review web site