Book Review: Murakami Haruki’s After The Quake

I first became aware of Murakami’s work when I was in Japan in June 2010. Every bookshop I passed, and almost every commuter on each train, had 1Q84 and the cover intrigued me. Of course, the book itself was in Japanese but I recognised it at once when the translation arrived here. I thought it might be a little heavy going to jump into without tasting the author’s work before, so I picked up this short book first.

After The Quake is a short story collection, focused on life for several Japanese men, women and children in the aftermath of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. None of the stories are set in Kobe, nor do any of the characters visit there. It is instead told through the prism of news reports, reaction to news reports, nightmares, hallucinations and a recognition of mortality. And a giant talking Frog, whose mention on the book blurb confused and intrigued me. I remain confused and intrigued, which I think is exactly as Murakami intended it.

I found the stories moving and genuinely interesting, to read and to deconstruct once I had finished each one. The last story ‘Honey Pie’ was my favourite because of the relationships between the three main characters, but a special mention must be made of the discomfiting undertones in ‘All God’s Children Can Dance’ as religion and sex lie together, and the children’s folk tale meets visceral near-Lovecraftian horrors of ‘Super-Frog saves Tokyo’.

I will be reading more of Murakami’s work in the near-future.

Reading list

My list! My list of books that I have mostly skipped over in my 32 years of life, that I think I should give a look at. I hope to read them over the next year or so and I’ll cross them off as I do. I’ll be using a number generator to choose a random title each time so I imagine this will result in a lot of smooshing of reading experience and references.

  1. Blind Barber by John Dickson Carr
  2. The Jewel That Was Ours by Colin Dexter
  3. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1 (Penguin Classics)
  4. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Short Story) (Early Science Fiction Series)
  5. The Tale of Genji
  6. The Wild Girl by Robert Michele
  7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  8. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  9. The Complete Robot (Robot Series) by Isaac Asimov
  10. The Lord of the Rings (3 Book Box set) by JRR Tolkien
  11. Vanity Fair (Vintage Classics) by William Makepace Thackeray
  12. Moby-Dick (Vintage Classics) by Herman Melville
  13. Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman
  14. Madame Bovary (Penguin Classics) by Gustave Flaubert
  15. A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne
  16. The Moonstone (Penguin English Library) by Wilkie Collins
  17. In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu
  18. Around the World in Eighty Days (Penguin Classics) by Jules Verne
  19. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Illustrated) by Arthur Conan Doyle
  20. Consider Phlebas (The Culture) by Iain M. Banks
  21. Emma (Penguin English Library) by Jane Austen
  22. I am a Cat (Tuttle classics) by Soseki Natsume
  23. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings (Penguin Classics) by Edgar Allen Poe
  24. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
  25. The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
  26. The Time Machine (Penguin Classics) by H G Wells
  27. The Hound of the Baskervilles (Penguin Classics) by Arthur Conan Doyle
  28. Kokoro by Soseki Natsume
  29. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  30. Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers
  31. The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers
  32. At the Mountains of Madness by H P Lovecraft
  33. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
  34. The Big Sleep: by Raymond Chandler
  35. The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  36. The Long Good-Bye by Raymond Chandler
  37. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  39. Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes
  40. Hawksmoor (Penguin Decades) by Peter Ackroyd
  41. Watchmen by Alan Moore
  42. Death Note (Box Set: Vols 1-13) by Tsugumi Ohba
  43. Akira by Katshiro Otomo
  44. Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu
  45. Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama
  46. Battle Royale by Masayuki Taguchi
  47. Alice in the Country of Hearts by x QuinRose
  48. The Dark Elf Trilogy: “Homeland”, “Exile”, “Sojourn” (Forgotten Realms) by R A Salvatore
  49. Astonishing X-Men By Whedon & Cassaday (Ultimate Collection 1)
  50. Sandman (Slipcase Set) by Neil Gaiman
  51. Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot
  52. New X-Men by Grant Morrison
  53. Batman: The Killing Joke (Deluxe Edition) by Alan Moore and Brian Bollard
  54. Concrete Volume 1: Depths by Paul Chadwick
  55. Fables: v. 1 by Bill Willingham
  56. The Complete MAUS by Art Spiegelman
  57. Fullmetal Alchemist Box Set: 1-27 by Hiromu Arakawa
  58. Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin
  59. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
  60. Paradise Lost (Penguin Classics) by John Milton
  61. The Divine Comedy (Oxford World’s Classics) by Dante Alighieri
  62. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  63. Atomic Sushi by Simon May
  64. After The Quake by Haruki Murakami
  65. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
  66. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  67. The Player Of Games (The Culture) by Iain M. Banks

Random number generator has given me the following order (which I will follow, availability and library reservations allowing): 67, 16, 42, 1, 37, 59, 19, 13, 66, 20, 31, 24, 49, 26, 46, 35, 25, 53, 75, 54, 45, 52, 44, 6, 34, 22, 57, 55, 30, 33, 41, 56, 21, 50, 10, 69, 71, 23, 64, 12, 39, 3, 60, 4, 11, 28, 73, 14, 47, 58, 63, 51, 72, 15, 61, 43, 38, 32, 65, 62, 2, 3, 36, 70, 8, 9, 18, 48, 17, 5, 7, 68, 23, 27, 29, 35, 40, 74.

I’ve gone up to 75 to allow for inevitable additions and sequels I’ll want to throw in, plus I’m sure I’ll read a few out of order as the mood takes me.