(the first book I enjoyed on my Kindle paperwhite!)
In After Dark, Murakami uses a detached narration in the sense that “we” are looking in from a camera lens to observe the characters, which are mainly 19-year-old Mari and her sleeping sister, Eri. It’s easy to grasp the explicit theme of the story, which is that the soundness and logic of the day disappears as the Sun does and the world blurs into a caricature of hidden stories and flared emotions. It’s a beautiful easy read. A little daunting at night, because Eri (who is portrayed to be psychologically trapped in her own sleep + is literally sleeping in “real life”) gives an air of metaphysical mystery to it. It is also because the brutality of the night (a Chinese prostitute getting beaten up by a married psychopath) is shown.
What is stark is the narration in which we are drawn into the history and ramifications of these characters from a single “camera lens”. So, I thought about it. And at first all that dawned on to me was what we had learned in lit class i.e. how T.S Eliot portrayed Silas Marner in the same “zoom-in / zoom-out” narration in order to give an arching view. But that didn’t tally with the After Dark because I didn’t feel as if the lens view gave me a clearer picture of what was portrayed but rather, because of the first person narrative “we”, it hindered the peripheral vision that it ought to give.
So then I started thinking deeper through the theme of the story and more importantly the emotions it implicated. And surely, the mystery is heightened with this single-lens view. But then I started thinking of the title “After Dark”, and how it is supposed to portray life after 12am. And more than that, it is a portrayal of confusion and mess in life (most characters are running away from their past yet conceding to the fact that “memories are fuel”). But that’s not the point. The point is that the characters in the book have this unknown relationship with each other. They are all indirectly related and they themselves do not know it. Only “we” know. Also, in the book, there are things that Mari tells to a certain character and hides it from the one we would think she would more likely tell. It kind of confused me, why she hid it. But just as the single lens portrays the story, the individual characters of the book leave dissimilar impressions on each other. This sense of detachment in relationships is set by the scene/theme of the night, when harsh light of the sun is dismissed and secrets are poured onto the streets, and we have no clue from where these secrets arise and how it ramifies into the day. It’s beautiful! It captures how we are only shown what people choose to show us and this gives such individuality in each person. It might not be congenial but the complexity of such is beauty. As for the book as itself, the fact that we are plunged into this night scene where mysteries are at its middle let’s us in on exactly that (how we are only shown what people choose to show us).
Therefore after careful scrutiny, I have concluded that the camera lens x first-person collective (“we”) narration (which could be said to be the defining aspect of the book) is a device which does not show us an clearer overview of story but a devices which makes us a character in the book. We are placed in the spot, where stories of a handful of characters are being thrown at us through this narrow conduit. And this is extremely clever because as books tend to emulate life, this device is used to serve exactly that purpose. It is extremely apt in the sense that the book is about the detachment of one person from the other, even though they’re just a touch away. We know the characters only through the night. They are all running away from their past. For some, we know snippets of their past. For others, we know nothing but that they are running away. We know nothing of their origin (or their destiny). What Murakami portrayed to us is what we are unalterably faced with, in the reality of our multitudinous relationships. We are fueled by memories of these relationships yet the clarity of our understanding their individual is incongruous to our dependence on them. This: conveyed with a simple story and an ingenious device.
true art right there!