Top critical review
An Everyday (or night) Drama
Reviewed in the United States on December 28, 2012
After Dark is a moving novella that shows every last person we meet has a story from their lives that we wouldn't believe. It also shows how, even if we don't realize it, our actions can have a profound and lasting effect on those around us. Murakami does a great job of showing individual men and women's psychological complexities, and also boiling them down into simple dialogue. That, to me, is one of this novel's biggest strengths: each character is shown in their highs, lows, and "shadowy middleground," as one character puts it.
After Dark also shows the importance of family, as well as how complicated different family situations can be. Murakami does a great job, in this novella, of examining different moral situations along with different choices we face in life without judgement. This is a book showing the beauty and pain of every day, or gray, situations.
I think this novel goes a long way in showing how different, and yet similar, life can be for different people. One of the main examples of this is the nineteen year old prostitute that Mari speaks with. Both characters were the same age, but living very different lives. I found it really moving how Mari looked at the Chinese girl.
There are a lot of metaphysical quips in this book. To me, these literary devices are used, in most situations, to show different character's psychological complexes played out in concrete language and images. One example is when a character is looking the mirror, thinking that he is just fading away, and doesn't have a clear sense of identity. Then he walks away, and his reflection is still in the mirror after he's gone.
To me, this shows that, even though we don't usually think of ourselves as offering any important or lasting prints on the world around us, we, as individuals, leave a mark, somewhere between the spectrum of good and bad.
Eri didn't think she was close with her sister, but Mari had very powerful memories of her in the elevator. To me, this book is trying to show that our actions have real consequences, and we influence the people around us more than we may think.
It's normal for an individual to see their faults, regardless of their validity. The way different characters comment on each other's lives shows that each person has more to offer than they themselves think.
Another thing After Dark does is raise compassion for the people around us. I think it's normal, in our daily routines, to look past people doing this or that. Murakami, with this novel, tries to show that every last person we meet, or don't meet, for that matter, has a story that would surprise us.
After Dark isn't a masterpiece, but it's a great novel looking at coming into your own as a person, and seeing how complex the world around you is.