Sunday, 22 January 2006

Haruki Murakami, After the Quake

"All good people read good books" - Tanita Tikaram, "Twist in My Sobriety"
After the QuakeJust read Haruki Murakami's After the Quake, his collection of short stories on the impact of the Kobe quake. (I'm not sure how much this counts in the odd coincidences department, but I finished the book on 17 January, the anniversary of the quake.)

After the Quake is another little slice of Murakami's own quirky blend of magic realism - made me think about how Murakami seems to blend magic realism and minimalism. I'm also re-reading, as I do every few years, Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, so it's interesting to compare the flights of fancy that take place. (Aside: I think Murakami will one day win the Nobel.)

This won't be a full proper review, but suffice it to say that this is classic Murakami, with details finely observed in that non-judgemental style of his. The characters in the stories aren't directly affected by the earthquake - while they have relatives and former lovers in Kobe, no one they know is killed or injured, and so the prevailing sense is on the emotional aftershocks of the quake, as it breaks through the numbness of characters who have spent their lives going through the motions - the divorced Komura; Satsuki, the woman who has spent a lifetime hating a lover; Junpei, the writer who never knew how to articulate his love.

I was really taken by one of the final lines in "Honey Pie", the final story:
"I want to write stories that are different from the ones I've written so far, Junpei thought: I want to write about people who dream and wait for the night to end, who long for the light so they can hold the ones they love."
Sometimes it takes world events to clarify one's values, to burst complacency. And I'm not sure there is anything more precious than the dawn and the holding of loved ones.



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