Thursday 23 January 2014

Devouring Books: after the quake by Haruki Murakami

I don't want anyone to be alarmed by what I'm about to say, but... I really liked this book.
I know. The very idea that I would like something written by Haruki Murakami is just ridiculous to me, too, but there it is. Madness.

SO. after the quake (sic) is a set of 6 short stories, all featuring the Kobe earthquake of 1995 in some shape or form, which is generally with a quick mention, rather than it being the whole centre of the story. Except, because this is Murakami, it probably actually is at the centre of the story only in a subtle way, only I didn't get it because I just like to read Murakami without thinking too closely about what it all means.

Which is definitely a good thing since one of the stories is about a giant frog trying to save Tokyo from a giant worm who makes earthquakes.

What I found most interesting about these stories was how well Murakami's writing translated to the shorter form. He has written shorter books than The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, like Sputnik Sweetheart, which is only around 200 pages long, but these were 20 page stories, yet they still packed a pretty good Murakami punch* and I was impressed at his ability to reign in the weirdness when necessary. There are still a lot of the themes he deals with in general in after the quake, (loneliness, disappearing women, giant frogs..?) but they're definitely pared down and possibly more digestible to someone who might find Murakami hard to digest?**

Maybe what I liked most about after the quake was the fact that, even though each story is self-contained and a story in it's own right, there are tiny tiny hints in each of story that suggest that there are connections between at least a few of them, and maybe all of them. It's not a case of characters from one story showing up in the next (in other words, there isn't a Jennifer Egan thing going on) but small details that then come up later on in a larger way (e.g. in All God's Children Can Dance, the main character is referred to as Super Frog, and then there actually IS a super frog in Super-Frog Saves Tokyo.) It's the absolute kind of thing that rubs me up the right way***, basically, and I might be overimpressed by such things, but SO BE IT. I like it.

To conclude: I was never going to not like this, because MURAKAMI DID YOU KNOW I LIKE HIM? I LIKE HIM A LOT! But I would say that it probably exceeded my expectations when I discovered it was short stories because I couldn't really see Murakami's style translating so well to the shorter form. But it did, and I rejoiced, and I finished a Murakami book in about 2 hours which is ridiculous and will probably never happen again, but there you are. Hey, did you know I like Murakami?
Oh. Right. Well, ok then.

*A Murakami punch probably involves ears. Or cats.
**You probably shouldn't be eating Murakami. Or his books. Just a thought.


  1. Yeah, Haruki Murakami! How can people not like him?! He is so so so great (I mean who else would come up with a giant frog and still give you the feeling that you're reading something of literary value?). I just read his brand-new book and it is absolutely fantastic (like Norwegian Wood!) although my review is crap because how do you put Murakami's awesomeness in words?!

    1. Nooo, I read your review and it was good! Or at least it made me want to read the book, and that's what I call a successful review, tbh! (I tried to comment on it but my stupid phone wouldn't let me so I gave up and sulked...)

  2. Yayyy I love Murakami short stories! And I really enjoyed this collection, especially the one about the frog. Hehe.

    One thing that definitely sucks about you not being able to understand Japanese is that there are a LOT of Murakami short stories in Japanese, and not all of them have been translated into English. Boo!