If I were to give a synopsis for this novel, it would seem completely mundane. As well, the various storylines are never really resolved; the reader is left with a sense of general continuousness heralded by dawning of a new day. Here, Murakami is describing life...existence in its plainest form; whatever can happen within a short and finite period of time. No more, no less. But it wouldn’t be Murakami without some mention of the metaphysical, here in the form of Eri Asai, a beautiful young woman who excuses herself from her family’s dinner table, telling them she’s tired and wants to go to sleep. Her “sleep” is a strange, metaphysical hibernation, where her unconscious state allows her to transport across dimensions into a disturbing parallel world, a world that perhaps represents her own trapped and confused state of being and sense of self.
Paired with Eri Asai’s story are several other threads, stories of various characters, all troubled in some way because of the past and/or potential fears of what’s to come. All are interconnected in some way. The symbolism Murakami uses to connect these stories, be it a mirror reflection, a pencil, a cat, a fish cake or a tuna sandwich, could easily seem childish and overdone, but in his capable hands these symbols are like a vital force that keeps the story alive. The symbols are subtle reminders—like a pulse—for the reader to recognize and accept. These symbols also share a similar theme by reflecting the sense of loneliness the various characters of this novel feel. Together, these elements make After Dark
quite a compelling read despite its brevity.