After Dark by Haruki Murakami


Eyes mark the shape of the city. We read this book as if it was reported by a camera. It gave me the impression as if I was watching a film. The story takes place in a big city, in a single night, after the last train left. The main themes of the novel are sleep, or lack of it, solitude and another world, a different reality lurking in TV screens, mirrors and the dead of night in general.

Mari decides to spend the night awake at Denny's, reading a book. It's where Takahashi , a friend of her sister Eri finds her before his all night practice with the jazz band. It seems Mari's not going to be left alone. Kaoru, a love hotel manager asks her to help her talk to a beaten up Chinese prostitute. Takahashi told her Mari was fluent in Chinese. Mari's sister Eri doesn't want to wake up. One day she decided to go to sleep for a while and didn't wake up. While she sleeps all sorts of weird things happen. Shirakawa can't sleep. Among other things he spends the night at the office working and listening to Bach.

Mari doesn't want to sleep. Eri doesn't want to wake up. Shirakawa can't sleep. Takahashi practices music all night. After the last train departs and the first one arrives, the city changes, it's not the same as during the day. It's not important whether the protagonists sleep or not, weird things happen during the night. After the night falls and before the day breaks, door into another world open. A television in Eri's room is turned on by itself, even if it's been unplugged. A man with no face looks at Eri from the other side of the screen. People's reflections stay in the mirrors even after they moved away. A mobile phone, left in a supermarket warns people that what was done will not be forgotten. The message isn't meant for them personally, but at the same time, what if it is. 

I love Haruki Murakami's magical realism and other worlds he explores, as well as all the musical and art references mentioned in his novels. I haven’t checked the lyrics of the songs mentioned, but I remember a line from Jealousy by Pet shop Boys, playing while Mari looks at her reflection in a mirror: At dead of night ´til break of day endless thoughts and questions keep me awake. The scene at Denny’s reminded me of Edward Hopper’s Night Birds. I smiled when I read about Hopper’s Loneliness hanging on a wall of Shirakawa’s office. The love hotel is called Alphaville, the same as Jean-Luc Godard's movie about a city in the future, where people aren’t allowed to have feelings. An apt name for a love hotel, isn’t it? What I loved the most is another word opening up after the last train departs. In After Dark a fissure opens at night and we just may enter a void or another world where another reality replaces our normal reality. 

Everything, finally, unfolded in a place resembling a deep, inaccessible fissure. Such places open secret entries into darkness in the interval between midnight and the time the sky grows light. None of our principles has any effect there. No one can predict when or where such abysses will swallow people, or when or where they will spit them out.

[…]

But is that really true?

*

Roman se bere kot da bi gledali film. Pripovedovalec je vsevidna kamera, ki nas usmerja kam naj obrnemo pogled, na kaj naj se osredotočimo. Zgodba se dogaja v velikem mestu, v eni noči, potem, ko je zadnji vlak odpeljal. Poglavitne teme so spanje, ali odsotnost spanja, samota in drug svet, druga resničnost, ki se skriva v televizijskih ekranih, ogledalih in na splošno v temi noči.

Mari se odloči, da bo noč preživela v Dannyju, lokalu, ki je odprt celo noč. Tam jo, preden se odpravi na celonočno vajo z jazz bandom, sreča Takahashi, prijatelj njene sestre. Kasneje jo zmoti Kaoru, ki vodi hotel, kjer ljudje najemajo sobe za zmenke in potrebuje nekoga, ki zna kitajsko, da bi se pogovoril s pretepeno kitajsko prostitutko. Takahashi ji pove kje lahko najde Mari, ki jih lahko pomaga. Marina sestra Eri se noče zbuditi. Nekega dne se odloči, da gre za kratek čas spat, vendar se od takrat ni zbudila. Medtem ko spi, se jih dogajajo čudne stvari. Shirakawa ne more spati. Ponoči med drugim dela in v pisarni posluša Bacha.

Mari noče spati, Eri se noče zbuditi, Shirakawa ne more spati, Takahashi vso noč igra trombon. Potem, ko zadnji vlak odpelje in prvi pripelje, se mesto spremeni. Ni pomembno ali ljudje spijo ali ne, v vsakem primeru se jim dogajajo čudne stvari. Potem ko pade noč in preden se zdani, se odprejo vrata v drug svet. Televizija v Erini sobi se prižge sama od sebe, čeprav je kabel iztaknjen iz vtičnice. Mož brez obraza jo gleda z druge strani ekrana. Odsevi ostanejo v ogledalih tudi potem, ko so ljudje že zapustili prostor. Mobilni telefon, pozabljen na polici supermarketa opozarja ljudi, da kar je bilo storjeno, ne bo pozabljeno. Sporočilo ni namenjeno njim osebno, hkrati pa … kaj pa če je.

Obožujem Murakamijev magični realizem in druge svetove, ki jih raziskuje. Ravno tako vse glasbene in ostale reference, ki jih omenja v svojih knjigah. Nisem preverjala besedil pesmi, ki jih igrajo v ozadju dogajanja tega romana, se pa spomnim nekaj vrstic iz komada Jealousy, ki ga izvajajo Pet Shop Boys medtem ko Mari opazuje svoj odsev v ogledalu: V temi noči mi misli in vprašanja vse do jutra ne pustijo spati. Nočni prizor v lokalu me je spomnil na Nočne ptice Edwarda Hopperja. Kasneje sem prebrala, da na steni v Shirakawini pisarni visi Hopperjeva Osamljenost. Hotel, ki ga vodi Kaoru, se imenuje Alphaville, enako kot Jean-Luc Godardov film o mestu v prihodnosti, kjer ljudem ni dovoljeno gojiti globokih čustev. Prikladno ime za hotel, kjer se ljudje srečujejo samo za nekaj ur. Najbolj mi je bila všeč ideja drugega sveta, ki se odpre potem, ko odpelje zadnji vlak. Ponoči se odpre razpoka, skozi katero lahko vstopimo v drugi svet, kjer druga resničnost nadomesti našo vsakdanjo resničnost. Take razpoke med polnočjo in jutrom odprejo skrivne prehode v temo, kjer vsakdanja pravila ne veljajo več. Ne moremo predvideti kje ali kdaj bo tako brezno požrlo ljudi, niti kje ali kdaj jih bo izpljunilo. Samo … kaj pa če to sploh ni res?

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