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After the Quake by Haruki Murakami

After the Quake (2000)

by Haruki Murakami

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English (67)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  French (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  All languages (76)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
When I am really impressed with a fiction writer, I often endeavor to read all or most of their works. Alas, William Faulkner was too dense and too prolific for me to succeed, but if I live long enough I may crack that nut. I had better luck with Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Cormac McCarthy. I’m almost there with Haruki Murakami, who has quite the long catalog.
The problem with reviewing the same author of multiple works is that it is sometimes difficult to find new ground to cover. My latest Murakami read was After the Quake, a collection of six short stories – or are these long stories? – centered around the cataclysmic Kobe earthquake in 1995. Except they are not. The characters in these six stories, all narrated from the third person, do not actually experience the earthquake directly, but are made aware of it peripherally, primarily through television news. Still, the event clearly unsettles them all and it is a pronounced sense of resonating palpable unease that binds these tales into a coherent collection. Another natural adhesive is the fact that these stories were all written in 1999-2000, so we have a snapshot of the kind of writer Murakami was during this phase of his career as well as a logical rationale for including these in a single collection. That image is sharpened because we also know by the author’s own words that he never writes short stories and novels at the same time: he either works on one or another.
Murakami has had a long writing career that dates back to 1979, which has seen a marked evolution in style and presentation while retaining some elements present at the creation, so to speak. After the Quake originally appeared in Japanese in 2000 (and in English translation in 2002), which for Murakami fans means the time between the novels Sputnik Sweetheart (1999) and Kafka on the Shore (2002). I have read two of his other short story collections – The Elephant Vanishes and Blind Willow, Sleeping Women – which together contain a medley of forty-one stories written over the long period of 1980-2005 that are neither arranged chronologically nor thematically. Like a carelessly arranged anthology album of a rock band that has been performing in various iterations since the 1960s, there is the potential for a kind of dissonance in this kind of jumble, even if the quality of the tracks are impressive. (Side note: no such dissonance in Hemingway or Faulkner, for instance, because their respective writing styles and thematic approach remained so similar over time.) Because After the Quake was written in the same era and orbit (however peripherally) around a central event, there is a logic that enhances the ability of the review process to effectively compare and contrast the contents. At the same time, it should be underscored, each of these stories can stand on its own and does not need to appear in a volume with the others in order to succeed.
“UFO in Kushiro,” opens the collection and makes reference to the earthquake more frequently and in more detail than the others. Here it serves as a tectonic shift (pun fully intended!) of sorts for Komura – one of those dull, passive Murakami male protagonists – whose wife walks out on him while he is at work five days after the earthquake with no notice, little explanation and an irrevocable determination to never return, in circumstances similar to that in the earlier novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Komura’s sudden divorce makes for a series of unlikely events to follow for him that include smuggling an unnamed object, cavorting with a couple of edgy young women, a funny story about a bear and a bell, sexual dysfunction and existentialism. Not bad for twenty pages of text! I cannot be certain what the story means, but I enjoyed it enough to read it twice through.
“Landscape with Flatiron,” perhaps the finest story in the collection, is also manifestly existential, involving a young woman’s platonic bond (but perhaps that could change …) with an older man who collects driftwood to build masterful fires on the beach that she is powerfully drawn to for emotional succor. This is an especially rich tale pregnant with metaphor that is enhanced by Murakami’s gift for crafting female characters who often are far more developed and complex than their male counterparts. “All God’s Children Can Dance” is a strange, disquieting tale of religion, the potential for incest, the prospect of virgin birth, an unusually large penis, and a man with a missing earlobe that has been bitten off by a dog – in a strange contrast to the author’s typical use of a woman’s ear as an object of sexual fetish. It is as if Japanese literary doppelgangers of Stephen King, Rod Serling, John Irving and Edgar Allen Poe got together for a weird collaboration. I’m not sure how I feel about the story, but it is by all means worth the read.
Of the remaining stories, I very much enjoyed both “Thailand” – which contains familiar Murakami elements of jazz music and a hint of magical realism – as well as the quirky love story “Honey Pie.” I was less impressed with “Super-Frog Saves Tokyo,” an attempt at magical whimsy that seemed to me to fall flat whether intended as an allegory, a comedy or a psychodrama. But perhaps I just missed something.
Whether you are a diehard Murakami fan or simply curious about an author who gets a lot of press in the literary world, I would recommend this slender volume for your reading pleasure. ( )
  Garp83 | Sep 9, 2015 |
Beautiful, unexpected stories. A little reliant on truncation perhaps - in the same way a haiku feels more sparsely beautiful than a sonnet.

The closer 'Honey Pie' is the best, for me. ( )
  sometimeunderwater | Sep 3, 2015 |
This remarkable collection includes six stories, each of which occurs in the wake of the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake and each of which takes part of its context and meaning from the psychological reverberations of that quake. Deceptively quick to read, the stories are multilayered and generously peppered with allusion, metaphor, and an eerie sort of magical realism. Murakami's characters are palpable and true; their passions and their flaws are easy to believe. Each story can be read as just that: a story. But each one also holds hidden kernels of philosophical (metaphysical, existential -- he won't be tied down) wisdom. I finished each story with that satisfying mental check, often translated as "huh," which means I want to read it again and see if I can more fully ascertain the author's rich exploration of the themes of death, loss, connection, and the questionable sense of reality that comes with being human. Did I mention that Murakami has a delightfully sly sense of humor? ( )
  EBT1002 | Aug 31, 2015 |
Murakami's stories are masterful, as playful as they are believable. Where magical realism slips int, particularly in "Super-Frog saves Tokyo", there's also an element of adult-type wonder that isn't easy to find with other authors. It makes Murakami's work all the more special and memorable.

And though these are short stories, none particularly long, it's not difficult to get sucked in to each world. Much as the themes might overlap, the characters are as various as the plots, and nothing here is repetitive. Simply enough, you'll be hard-pressed to not read this short collection in one sitting.

Absolutely recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Apr 25, 2015 |
My first foray into Murakami. This young Japanese writer is held in high regard by many whose opinion I value. I'm so glad I picked up this lovely collection of six short stories. Published in 2002, each tale connects in some way to the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe Earthquake. Of varying lengths, each is quite different and unique in voice, plotting and perspective. We have an abandoned husband in "UFO in Koshiro", a love triangle in "Honey Pie", a businesswoman on vacation in "Thailand", a giant talking amphibian in "Super Frog Saves Tokyo", an odd trio dancing to a beachfront bonfire in "Landscape with Flatiron", and a young man whose mother is convinced he is the Son of God in "All God's Children Can Dance."

This is not my typical reading fare. I lack the vocabulary to properly describe it. Many call Murakami's style magical realism. I simply found each story to be eerie and mystical. Perfect renditions of characters feeling at loss and searching for ... what? Peace? Resolution? Answers? I was haunted by the lyrical writing. One of my favorites books this year thus far. Mine was an audiobook edition. The three narrators were wonderful. Completely engrossed. ( )
1 vote michigantrumpet | Jun 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
I loved this book before last week’s earthquake, because it illuminated a few things about my own condition at the time that I read it. But now the truth in this collection of fiction has a new depth to it; its general conclusions have become amazingly relevant and important to us this week. It offers no solutions and I don’t even think it offers much comfort, but it holds a hauntingly accurate mirror to our world now.

» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Haruki Murakamiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rubin, JayTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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“Liza! What was it yesterday, then?”
“It was what it was.”
“That’s impossible! That’s cruel!”

   —Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons
RADIO: …garrison already decimated by the Vietcong, who lost 115 of their men…
WOMAN: It’s awful, isn’t it, it’s so anonymous.
MAN: What is?
WOMAN: They say 115 guerillas, yet it doesn’t mean anything, because we don’t know anything about these men, who they are, whether they love a woman, or have children, if they prefer the cinema to the theatre. We know nothing. They just say…115 dead.

   —Jean-Luc Godard, Pierrot le Fou
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Five straight days she spend in front of the television, staring at crumbled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways.
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Please do not combine this entry with the entries for the individual short stories.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375713271, Paperback)

Haruki Murakami, a writer both mystical and hip, is the West's favorite Japanese novelist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Murakami lived abroad until 1995. That year, two disasters struck Japan: the lethal earthquake in Kobe and the deadly poison gas attacks in the Tokyo subway. Spurred by these tragic events, Murakami returned home. The stories in After the Quake are set in the months that fell between the earthquake and the subway attack, presenting a world marked by despair, hope, and a kind of human instinct for transformation. A teenage girl and a middle-aged man share a hobby of making beach bonfires; a businesswoman travels to Thailand and, quietly, confronts her own death; three friends act out a modern-day Tokyo version of Jules and Jim. There's a surreal element running through the collection in the form of unlikely frogs turning up in unlikely places. News of the earthquake hums throughout. The book opens with the dull buzz of disaster-watching: "Five straight days she spent in front of the television, staring at the crumbled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways." With language that's never self-consciously lyrical or show-offy, Murakami constructs stories as tight and beautiful as poems. There's no turning back for his people; there's only before and after the quake. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:01 -0400)

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A collection of stories inspired by the January 1995 Kobe earthquake and the poison gas subway attacks two months later takes place between the two disasters and follows the experiences of people who found their normal lives undone by surreal events.

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