After Dark Critical Overview
by Haruki Murakami

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Critical Overview

Murakami’s subject matter and settings are heavily influenced by Western culture, which is why some traditional Japanese writers criticize his work. Nevertheless, Murakami’s following, in Japan and elsewhere, does not seem to care. His works are anxiously awaited and well received. Although many of his books are not center on Japanese culture, several take place in Japan, which is the case with After Dark.

Walter Kirn, writing for The New York Times, finds that Murakami’s After Dark provides vignettes about city life (Tokyo, specifically) in the chaotic hours after the sun goes down. Readers are given glimpses of both the terrors and the somewhat comforting shadows of night creatures who either cannot or do not want to sleep. Kirn calls Murakami a patient man who is not quite of this world. He is a writer who continues to plead for the case of humans, who are lonesome and afraid and do not know what to do.

In describing this novel, Kirn writes, Murakami “chooses his metaphors for their musical value, not their intellectual architecture, and lets them play on by breath and intuition.” Kirn does not approve of Murakami’s abstract scenes, such as attempting to enter Eri’s dreams; rather, he finds the author strongest when his characters kept their feet on the ground and just talked.

Critic Chas Bowie, writing for the Portland Mercury, begins his review by describing Murakami with these words: “It’s nearly impossible to name another contemporary author whose books are as hypnotic and disorienting as those of Haruki Murakami.” However, Bowie is disappointed with Murakami’s After Dark. On his worst writing day, Bowie says, Murakami is still better than most other authors. But Bowie was expecting more.

William Brett, London’s The Spectator critic, writes that in After Dark Murakami “explores the ways in which the night can heighten our sense of isolation, and threaten our conception of reality.” Brett liked the story, which he feels is another example of how skilled Murakami is at bringing forth challenging concepts in an easy-to-read and simplistic but satisfying style. Rather than feeling that Murakami’s wanderings into Eri’s dreaming detracts from the otherwise standard reality, Brett praises the author. Brett finds that, like many of Murakami’s other novels, the author has more than proved his skills as a master of surrealist storytelling. Murakami,...

(The entire section is 588 words.)