Author: Haruki Murakami (trans. Jay Rubin)
Publication Date: 2007 (original publication 2004)
Number of Pages: 191
Part of a Series: No.
- Alienation (Social Psychology)
- Interpersonal Relations
- Japanese Fiction
- Literary Fiction
- Magical Realism
- Psychological Fiction
- Sex Workers
Geographical Setting/ Time Period: A city in modern-day Japan
Us: Quiet, transparent, and intuitive, we the readers and the author narrate the story in our observance of it.
Mari Asai: A bookish, unambitious student of Chinese at the University of Foreign studies, who feels she has nothing to show for her individualism.
Eri Asai: A beautiful, shallow model who is in a deep sleep, and wakes up to her existential angst.
Kaoru: An ex-female-wrestler and current love hotel manager, who is not afraid of gangsters.
Takahashi: A talented, but not brilliant, trombonist and law student who does everything very slowly and is full of long stories.
Plot Summary: Over the course of a night, Mari Asai meets Takahashi, a boy she knew once in high school, and Kaoru, whom she assists in helping a Chinese prostitute, who’s been beaten and robbed in Kaoru’s love hotel. Through their conversations, the reader comes to understand their inner lives and uncertainties. While this is occurring Eri Asai, who has been in a deep sleep, wakes up to the horror that is her identity and existence, and the salaryman who attacked the prostitute finishes a hard night’s work.
Appeal: Written in a stream-of-consciousness style that plays off of the jazz riffs in Takashi’s beloved “Five Spot After Dark,” Murakami blends straightforward sentences with lyrical prose with scripted comedy routines. The characters are flawed with deep lives of their own, into which the reader is given glimpses as they react to the plot at their own, steady pace. The tone of the novel is gray and depersonalized, set a few paces back from the action, with bursts of humor. This helps to set up the reader for some disconcerting elements, which feel horrifying in comparison to the dreamy undertone of the rest of the novel. The familiar and solid setting of a Denny’s serves to emphasize the surreal nature of the inner lives of the characters.
Brief quote: pg. 3
In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature—or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old.
Prizes or Awards:
Nominee for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2008, which is sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today. Haruki Murakami has received the Franz Kafka Prize from the Czech Republic in 2006 and the Jerusalem Prize in 2009. In 2007 and 2008 he received honorary doctorates from the University of Liege and Princeton University, respectively.
Similar Works: From NoveList’s Author Read-Alikes
- Kobo Abe, The Woman in the Dunes, surrealist Japanese novel that explores themes of alienation and diverges sharply from traditional Japanese literature.
- David Mitchell, Ghostwritten: A Novel in Nine Parts, interweaves the stories of nine characters throughout the world and portrays the alienation and loneliness in modern life.
Reviewer’s Name: Natalie Garner
Adapted from Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers= Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd. Chicago: ALA, 1997.