Many of my blogging friends are reading and enjoying the books of Haruki Murakami, so I was very interested in reading something by him for Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 2. I chose his book, After the Quake, a collection of six short stories, each one connected indirectly with the 1995 Kobe Earthquake in Japan.
Another reason I chose this book was because I live in “earthquake country” and have personally experienced an earthquake and some of the emotional after-effects that inevitably follow such an event. In 2001, the Nisqually quake shook Western Washington. It did not have the destructive power of the Kobe quake, but there was significant damage to structures in the area and to everyone’s sense of well-being. Even though I’d felt earthquakes before, on that day I felt the earth’s crust ripple beneath my feet and I will never be the same. The earth simply doesn’t feel as solid to me as it did before that experience.
“Strange and mysterious things, though, aren’t they — earthquakes?” the man says. “We take it for granted that the earth beneath our feet is solid and stationary. But suddenly one day . . . the earth, the boulders, that are supposed to be so solid, all of a sudden turn as mushy as liquid.”
Murakami, in these six short stories, writes about the emotional upheavals and after-effects that follow a major disaster. Lives are changed in little and in big ways, and he writes about individuals that are searching for themselves and for meaning in a world changed by disaster. And I liked this comment from an unofficial, but very interesting, Murakami web site:
But the most compelling character of all is the earthquake itself–slipping into and out of view almost imperceptibly, but nonetheless reaching deep into the lives of these forlorn citizens of the apocalypse. The terrible damage visible all around is, in fact, less extreme than the inconsolable howl of a nation indelibly scarred–an experience in which Murakami discovers many truths about compassion, courage, and the nature of human suffering.
After the Quake was well-written and powerful. I will definitely read more of Murakami’s books.
Many book bloggers I respect have read and enjoyed Murakami. I haven’t yet,, but this book sounds like a good place to start.
Sarah, there were so many blogger reviews of his other books that I just wasn’t sure which one to choose to read first. This one was short and very interesting, so I’m glad I chose it. It’s nice to look forward to the others now.
I haven’t read this one yet. It does sound very powerful, and I want to get to it before long. Thanks for the review, Robin.
Being a California native I have experienced many earthquakes, thankfully none of them too serious. It’s true. They do change you.
I didn’t know he’d written a book about the Kobe quake. Must read!! Thanks for the wonderful review. The photos show just how strong that quake was. It’s fascinating how the shaking of soil can turn it to liquid, isn’t it?
Nymeth, Petunia, and Bookfool, I’m sorry I missed your comments from earlier this week! Too focused on my report cards and parent conferences, I’m afraid. I enjoyed reading his stories. I wouldn’t want to experience a quake that strong, though. The one we went through was strong enough, and it wasn’t nearly the power of the Kobe quake!
I recently reviewed Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. I know little about him as a writer, but he seems like an interesting man. I also enjoyed Norwegian Wood and what I read of The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, though I have yet to finish it.