Book of da Week: Murakami’s after the quake

Murakami after the quake
Murakami’s after the quake.

A bit of Haruki Murakami this week, one of the top writers in the world. Other than Professional Moron, of course! His most famous books include Kafka on the Shore and IQ84, but they’re massive and don’t have any pictures in them! Indeed, so we’ve gone for after the quake as it’s a selection of short stories. A perfect way to be introduced to the Japanese writer.

after the quake (神の子どもたちはみな踊る) was published back in 2000, making it by far the youngest book from our Book Of Da Week library of posts! Now we’ve not forgotten how to make words go Capital, it’s just Murakami insisted to his English translator this is the way the title had to be. So there.

after the quake

There are six stories altogether, all of them dealing with characters emotionally afflicted by the terrible 1995 Kobe earthquake. Critics believe it was an attempt by the author to explain Japan’s conscience after the tragedy, although we (unfortunately) haven’t read enough of Murakami to know his typical leaning.

What we have here, though, are six excellent stories dealing with loss, love, life, the passage of time, and occasional surrealism. The highlight has to be Super-Frog Saves Tokyo, with its opening line: “Katagiri found a giant frog waiting for him in his apartment.” Echoes of The Metamorphosis, and the tale plays out like one of Studio Ghibli’s more disturbing (but enthralling) movies.

We won’t rant too much about it as it’ll spoil the book – who needs spoilers, huh? We’ll merely indicate this excellent, brief introduction to Murakami is an ideal way to introduce yourself to one of the world’s most esteemed writers. Tinged with a sense of yearning (for love, lost youth, and for giant frogs) it’s got the surreal sensibilities which often mark out Japanese cultural high points, whilst being the mature work of a brilliant writer.

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