Haruki Murakami’s After Dark spurs the question of an individual’s function in everyday life
“Is action merely the incidental product of thought, or is thought the consequential product of action,” the prolific novel asks.
Is this the post 9/11 form of inner-reflection? Do we question why we do things or do we repeat monotonous behaviors to give ourselves comfort? Spurring even more intense self-questioning is the knowledge that Murakami’s latest novel, IQ84, is under the type of intense surveillance that National Security Advisors are drooling over.
It is a conspiracy of silence – already released in Japan, the over 1,000 page book will not be in the U.S. until next year. There is a sketchy plotline and discussion groups abound. All the commentary and speculation is unsatisfying and ambiguous. Until then, however, this novel has ample ability to render one hooked on Japanese culture, just as the film, “The Eye,” can introduce one to the enticingly disturbing realm of East Asian horror cinema.
Throughout Murakami’s tale of dual realities existing in real time there is a sense of something creepy about to happen. However, the only outwardly violent episode in the book is the prostitute’s beating by the nondescript businessman, Shirakawa. Somehow, this perverse act holds its grotesqueness without invading what the true horror was of Eri (The sister who is perpetually in slumber – much like Sleeping Beauty – only without being raped by a “prince” and giving birth to twin sons. Disney would never make that version) being trapped within the television and being watched by a faceless entity.
Nevertheless, it is the character of Takahashi, who, aside from Mari (The sister who is always awake, wears a Boston Red Sox cap and an oversized jacket that is never explained.) is introspective about his behavior. His history unfolds in an effectively logical manner. We learn that Takahashi was orphaned for a period of time when he was seven. We also learn that he reverts back to that time period of having had to take care of himself whenever he needs to make a major decision about his life, such as when he decides to take law school seriously.
Takahashi ties in his introspection of the idea of humanity along with his childhood and the outcome is a seamless revelation of action and thought intricately woven into one cohesive concept.
In essence Takahashi has the ability to empathize and sympathize with different aspects of humanity; particularly with people who are caught up in impossible circumstances. Yet, Takahashi picks up a cell phone with no owner? He seems to completely disassociate his action in the seven-eleven and forgo his profound reasoning on the human condition that he makes throughout the novel.
After all “…it has nothing to do with [him]…All [he] did was pick up a cell phone ringing on a convenience-store shelf out of kindness…”
This was the most disturbing aspect of the novel. Let’s forget the girl crawling out of the television, the inexplicable use of cats and the Businessman’s lunch-break activities. The way Takahashi disconnects his life experience with his actions at the convenience store seems to show a sense of disregard for the observations he makes throughout the book.
This action is what twenty-first century thinking has become.
Action and thought don’t seem to weave together, instead they collide.