after the quake by Haruki Murakami

March 16, 2013

Summary (from the publisher): The six stories in Haruki Murakami’s mesmerizing collection are set at the time of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake, when Japan became brutally aware of the fragility of its daily existence. But the upheavals that afflict Murakami’s characters are even deeper and more mysterious, emanating from a place where the human meets the inhuman.

An electronics salesman who has been abruptly deserted by his wife agrees to deliver an enigmatic package—and is rewarded with a glimpse of his true nature. A man who has been raised to view himself as the son of God pursues a stranger who may or may not be his human father. A mild-mannered collection agent receives a visit from a giant talking frog who enlists his help in saving Tokyo from destruction. As haunting as dreams, as potent as oracles, the stories in After the Quake are further proof that Murakami is one of the most visionary writers at work today.

Warning: Spoilers below!:

Liked:

  • I’ve never read Murakami’s short stories before, so this experience was new for me. I enjoyed the very sparse, compact nature of his writing. It sort of reminded me of Hemingway in this respect.
  • My favorite of the stories was “Honey Pie”, which follows a love triangle that develops between two men and a woman after they meet at university at the age of 19. I think the emotions Junpei went through as he watched Takatsuki swoop in and take Sayoko before Junpei got up the courage to act is something many people can relate to. And then later, I could empathize again as Junpei watched Takatsuki treat Sayoko poorly and take her for granted. But the story ends on a positive note as Junpei injects his own short stories (he’s an author) with an optimism that was absent before he and Sayoko finally connected.
  • All of the stories contain recognizable themes–love, loss, loneliness, longing–tackled in a somewhat ambiguous way that allows for plenty of interpretation. Each reader brings his own baggage to the table, and will be able to see the stories and characters in a unique light. My interpretation of what Frog is in “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo” will be different from yours–and that’s perfectly acceptable.

Disliked:

  • Few of the characters were actually developed (a natural byproduct of the short story format, I guess), which made me wonder about their backstories, their personal traumas that inform who they are now, their motivations, etc. Although an element of mystery can be good for some characters, the lack of background sometimes just comes off as a deficiency in storytelling.
  • If you like your stories to have clear resolutions, this is not the book for you!

Rating:

after the quake by Haruki Murakami is well worth reading. The six stories contained in the volume all deal with timeless themes in an original yet relatable manner. I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

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