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.