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After the Quake: Stories by Haruki Murakami
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After the Quake: Stories (original 2000; edition 2003)

by Haruki Murakami

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2,979801,918 (3.8)270
Member:Carole888
Title:After the Quake: Stories
Authors:Haruki Murakami
Info:Vintage (2003), Paperback, 147 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:from Visual Bookshelf, 1001 books, Japan, Kobe earthquake, bookclub

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After the Quake by Haruki Murakami (2000)

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English (71)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (3)  French (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
This short book is a collection of six short stories, thematically linked - all take place shortly after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. All display Murakami's masterful writing. Technically, the book probably deserves 5 stars, but somehow, I found myself only liking it 4-stars' worth. Which is still excellent.
As in much of Murakami's writing, the characters here are 'floaty,' hard to pin down or grasp.

UFO in Kushiro.
The main character here is the literal embodiment of this aspect of Murakami's characters. His wife has left him because, she says, being married to him is like being married to "a chunk of air." A friend asks him to deliver a package, which seems to be a pretext to get him to meet a couple of sexy young women... but abruptly the narrative shifts to a musing on identity and loss.

Landscape with Flatiron
The title embodies Murakami's frequent juxtaposition of the surreal and the mundane. A young woman who has run away to live with her loser boyfriend is strangely drawn to an eccentric older man who is obsessed with lighting bonfires. Eloquent, depressing and shocking.

All God's Children Can Dance
The main character's mother, an eccentric born-again, has always claimed that he was the product of an immaculate conception. Unsurprisingly, he doubts this, and when he randomly encounters a man who fits the description of one of his mother's pre-conversion lovers, he follows and stalks the man. Again, it deals with issues of identity.

Thailand
A businesswoman on the verge of a nervous breakdown vacations in Thailand. Her hired driver, she learns, was the private chauffeur of a Norwegian man for over thirty years. Now that his employer has died, his identity is oddly truncated. Reminiscent of 'The Remains of the Day.'

Super-Frog Saves Tokyo
The only story here with 'fantasy' elements - although it could all be a drug-induced delirium. An ordinary businessman is approached by a human-sized, talking frog and told that he is the only one who can possibly save Tokyo from a devastating earthquake, if he assists the frog on his heroic and probably-doomed quest. Absurd, but touching, as it discusses what it means to rise above.

Honey Pie
Three friends meet in college. Both men fall in love with the woman... but one has the personality of taking what he wants, while the other tends to defer. Years pass, the relationships continue, odd and complicated. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
240) After the Quake Haruki Murakami
★★★

This is a collection of 6 short stories showing how the earthquake in Kobe affects the characters from all over Japan.

My favourite stories were the last two in the book Super Frog Saves Tokyo and Honey Pie and I would suggest these are the most "Murakami" in style especially in terms of magical realism.

I must confess I usually love Murakami and hate short stories so my 3 star rating is probably a combination of these factors balancing themselves out ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
A collection of six short stories, held together by the time period in which they are set. Murakami explores thoughts and feelings of how the 1995 earthquake in Kobe affected different characters. In terms of their relationships and the directions in which their lives are going. Only one story is magical realism as I know Murakami's work (Super Frog Saves Tokyo), the others are quieter explorations of various themes. I enjoyed this but preferred Kafka on the Shore and The Wind Up Bird Chronicles. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
This collection of short stories the deal with the impact of the 1995 Kobe earthquake on the life of people, none of them affected directly, but driven to reexamine their lives in its aftermath. There is a great variation in the stories, some very surreal, some more down to earth, but all of them distinctly Japanese. My preferred one was the last. ( )
  sushicat | Jan 14, 2016 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 71 (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.
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Haruki Murakamiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rubin, JayTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
“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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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)

(see all 3 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

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