Imagine you could become an invisible unbiased observer of someone else’s life for one night. You can watch, you can make your own conclusions, but you cannot intervene. And you can see things beyond what ordinary people see. That is how the author draws you – the reader, – into his book. You become part of it. Murakami doesn’t explain how and why the characters enter the scene, he doesn’t describe what is going on in their minds. He just lets you observe and make your own conclusions.
The lead heroine, Mari, is a young girl sitting alone in an almost empty family restaurant in the middle of the night. Did she run away from home? Is she escaping a bad relationship? The author doesn’t tell us, making us wait for the night to unravel her secrets. He seems to be just as curious as us. Time passes and we are introduced to other characters living in the darkness: Mari’s sister who’s trying to escape reality in her sleep, a musician who spends his nights practising his talent, a female manager of a love hotel whose busy hours start when the dusk falls, her assistant hiding from someone in the shadows, a Chinese night butterfly with no way out of prostitution, and a salary man whose personality changes after dark. It is unclear what happens to them after the morning comes, but it seems that each of them gained something from this meeting.
Murakami is the master of senses. He makes the reader see and hear, and feel the events happening in the book. There are so many elements going on at the same time, it almost feels like he is directing a movie inside your head. You see things you might otherwise find ordinary from a totally different perspective. You take on unusual angles, looking at the world through a fisheye lens. “After Dark” is a marvelous novel that shows the realm that most people never experience.