After Dark Summary

Haruki Murakami

After Dark

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After Dark Summary

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After Dark is the eleventh novel by acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. The book was first published in Japan in 2004 and an English translation by Jay Rubin was released in 2007. Told in the present tense, the novel takes place in real time, following a group of characters over a single night in Tokyo.

Takahashi and Mari are college students who have been on one double date in the past. The date did not go well because Mari was shy and eccentric, preferring to speak in Chinese rather than Japanese. However, when Takahashi encounters her sitting alone in a restaurant late one night, he stops to speak with her. He tells Mari that he is going to meet with his band to practice overnight, but he hopes to see her when he returns in the morning.

Takahashi leaves, but Mari is soon approached by a woman, Kaoru, the manager of an hourly hotel. Kaoru has heard from Takahashi that Mari is fluent in Chinese and needs her to serve as a translator. Mari follows her back to the hotel where she finds a Chinese prostitute who has been beaten and robbed by her clients. Mari helps the prostitute clean up, and calls her pimp, a Chinese gangster who arrives and takes the woman away on a motorcycle.

Mari and Kaoru leave the hotel and Kaoru asks Mari if she wants a drink. Though Mari does not drink, she agrees to go along to a bar. She tells Kaoru that she was always less popular than her pretty sister Eri, and when she was a child her parents put her in a Chinese elementary school to get her away from bullies. This is why she is fluent in Chinese and studying to be a translator. Kaoru also talks about her history. She used to be a professional wrestler until an injury put an end to her career.

The women part ways. Kaoru returns to her hotel and checks the security footage for the men who assaulted the prostitute earlier. She finds the man and sends pictures of him to the Chinese gangsters, secretly hoping that they will punish him severely.

Meanwhile, strange things have been happening at the home of Mari’s sister Eri. Eri has already gone to bed by the time the events of the novel take place, but as she sleeps the television in her room switches on. A masked man stares out from the screen, looking right at Eri. Eventually, Eri disappears from her bed and appears next to the Man With No Face on the television. The pair stand so still that they look like a still image, but the narrator assures the reader that the picture is being broadcast in real time.

Soon, Takahashi arrives at the Skylark and finds Mari. He apologizes for inconveniencing her, saying that she was the first person he thought of when Kaoru called his cell phone and asked for someone who could speak Chinese. Mari asks how he knows Kaoru, and Takahashi explains that he fixes computers and does odd jobs around the hotel. He also tells Mari that he is planning to go to law school and become more serious about his studies soon.

As dawn approaches, the couple leaves the Skylark and goes to a nearby park. Mari asks Takahashi if he is interested in her sister Eri, but Takahashi is more interested in Mari. Mari confesses that she enjoyed the adventure with Kaoru earlier, and asks Takahashi to take her to the hotel. He agrees, dropping her off and promising to come back later to take her to breakfast.

Mari checks into a hotel room and turns on the television. She thinks about her sister, who has been afflicted by a strange disease that causes her to sleep all the time. The doctors do not know what is wrong with her since she seems to be in perfect health. Mari is unsettled being at home when her sister is asleep, which is why she has taken to staying out all night.

Takahashi returns for Mari, who no longer wants to go to breakfast. She has Takahashi walk her to the bus station and goes back home as the sun begins to rise. Once there, she looks in on her sister who is sleeping soundly. The television is no longer on. Mari gets into bed with Eri and curls up with her. She cries until she falls asleep, but as she does Eri shows the first signs of waking up.

The novel ends abruptly, without any definitive answers to its many mysteries. Even though Eri barely features in the story, her relationship with Mari is at the center of it. When the two sisters begin to reconcile, Eri shows the first signs of recovering from her mysterious malaise.