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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

After the Quake

Murakami Haruki

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To purchase After the Quake

Title: After the Quake
Author: Murakami Haruki
Genre: Stories
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 181 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: After the Quake - US
After the Quake - UK
After the Quake - Canada
After Dark - India
Après le tremblement de terre - France
Nach dem Beben - Deutschland
Tutti i figli di Dio danzano - Italia
Después del terremoto - España
  • Translated by Jay Rubin
  • These translations have also previously been published in such magazines as GQ, Granta, Harper's, The New Yorker, and Ploughshares
  • In Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words Jay Rubin writes -- without further explanation, and in a parenthetical aside -- that Murakami insisted that in the English version the title "should be all lower-case" (i.e. after the quake). As the book itself is inconsistent in this regard (the copyright page gives the title -- of the book and the stories -- properly capitalised) we have opted not to follow suit. But it's apparently what he wanted. (Note, however, that Japanese does not have separate upper and lower cases.)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fine small stories, quite well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph . 16/11/2002 Julie Myerson
The Guardian A 19/10/2002 Alex Clark
The Independent . 12/10/2002 Robert Hanks
The LA Times . 25/8/2002 Michael Harris
London Rev. of Books . 17/4/2003 Thomas Jones
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 13/11/2003 Leopold Federmair
The NY Times . 20/8/2002 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. A 18/8/2002 Jeff Giles
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2002 Jason Picone
Salon A 5/9/2002 Laura Miller
San Francisco Chronicle . 4/8/2002 Alan Cheuse
The Times A 26/10/2002 Matthew Crockatt
TLS . 4/10/2002 Christopher Taylor
Die Zeit . 9/10/2003 Ludger Lütkehaus

  Review Consensus:

  Almost all very enthusiastic

  From the Reviews:
  • "This new collection has lots to recommend it, but the finest story by far is Honey Pie. (...) I couldn't even begin to explain why I find it quite so moving and, in a sense, that's Murakami's magic. He speaks to a place so deep inside us that we can scarcely even reply." - Julie Myerson, Daily Telegraph

  • "In these dazzlingly elegant stories, he restores some of the light and some of the meaning, arguing that the possibility of moments of optimism and connection is not something we should take for granted." - Alex Clark, The Guardian

  • "But for all the apparent topicality, Murakami doesn't stray outside his rigorously delineated fictional world. (...) Admiration for his singleness of purpose vies with impatience at the repetitiveness and whimsy." - Robert Hanks, The Independent

  • "Murakami isn't interested (or if he is, he doesn't show it in his fiction) in what earthquakes actually are, or in what causes them. He's more concerned with this particular quake's effects, and especially its emotional effects on people who experience it at one remove." - Thomas Jones, London Review of Books

  • "The six stories in After the Quake are all related to the catastrophic Kobe earthquake of January 1995 -- not through the direct experience of victims but through the tremors that are felt, the cracks that open, in the lives of people seemingly at a safe remove. Americans should have no trouble empathizing with them after the shocks of Sept. 11." - Michael Harris, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Nach dem Beben ist ein bewundernswert konstruiertes Buch. (...) Denn Murakamis Erzählungen beunruhigen nicht, wie es beispielsweise die von Kafka tun, auch wenn sie mitunter ganz kafkaesk beginnen (.....) Sie erschüttern nicht wie das Erdbeben, auf das sie sich beziehen, sondern umfangen den Leser leicht und sicher, so dass er sich in ihnen rasch wohl zu fühlen beginnt." - Leopold Federmair, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "For readers unfamiliar with this writer's work, this slender volume, deftly translated by Jay Rubin, may serve as a succinct introduction to his imaginative world, embodying in miniature the pleasures and frustrations of his fiction: its ability to turn spiritual fatigue and other modern states of mind into resonant fables, as well as its tendency to devolve into whimsy and willful abstraction." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "(U)nexpectedly powerful, a collection of stories, slender and small as a hand, about the emotional after-shocks of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe. (...) Even if After the Quake has nothing to say about Murakami, which it certainly does, I'd gladly settle for what it says about us." - Jeff Giles, The New York Times Book Review

  • "For an author who has employed many daydreaming protagonists in his novels, Murakami’s message is clear: make hay before the next quake, because the next cataclysm is around the corner." - Jason Picone, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "This is a slim book, but you'll need to read it twice. (...) This is breathtakingly close to a flawless book, but in a very modest way." - Laura Miller, Salon

  • "That narrative action, that of the accidental turn, in this case the earthquake, that leads to new fortune, recurs in a number of these wonderfully inventive stories. (...) These stories, both mysterious and yet somehow quite familiar, may have the same effect on you, living, as we all are now, with the possibility of imminent disaster." - Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "What makes him a great writer is not his ability to create characters that we could imagine meeting, their internal lives a blend of pop culture references and enigmatic angst, it is the way in which we are drawn into their world and become emotionally involved in their stories." - Matthew Crockatt, The Times

  • "From the very beginning we are clearly in Murakami Land. (...) This change of consciousness is the subject of After the Quake, in which Murakami's fiction retains its imaginative integrity while putting on a more consoling and public face." - Christopher Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Die beträchtliche Spannung der Erzählungen lebt folgerichtig aus der Drohung wie aus der Verheißung der Brüche. Das Ende kann eine neue Liebe, ein gemeinsamer Selbstmord, eine erfolgreiche Gottsuche, der Aufbruch aus seelischer Erstarrung sein. Doch Murakami lässt mit seiner auffälligsten Eigenschaft als Erzähler das Ende zumeist offen: einem beobachteten Gleichmut, der von der katastrophischen Zuspitzung absticht und die Traumatisierung kompensiert, aber nicht mit einer sorgsam gepflegten narzisstischen Coolness-Attitüde verwechselt werden darf." - Ludger Lütkehaus, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The English title of this collection, After the Quake, refers to the devastating earthquake that hit Japan in 1995, centered around Kobe in the Kansai region. It is not one of the story titles, but rather a summing-up overview. (The Japanese title is the same as one of the stories, "All God's Children can Dance".)
       The earthquake is a presence in each of the stories, an event that is mentioned and that has had some sort of lingering (though usually only tangential) effect on at least some of the characters. Murakami never really ventures to earthquake-country, or describes what the effects were there: he is more interested in the larger effects, on the country as a whole and those peripherally affected. The earthquake is merely another symptom of the general unease and uncertainty faced by contemporary Japan.
       There are six stories in this small collection. Most of it is the usual Murakami-stuff: lost souls, odd encounters, late nights, unlikely and inexplicable creatures and occurrences, some jazz music, some unfulfilled love, disappearances, and at least one Murakami-like author. The book is sparsely populated: characters often meet late at night or in isolation. There are few crowds, and people have few friends.
       Particularly striking is the trust found in the novel, with strangers forming unlikely bonds. Friendships also are reliable, the rare bond (unlike marriage or family relationships) that holds. But even where there are divorces these are not rancorous. Murakami's interpersonal relationships are pleasant but so unlike most people's experience that they help give the collection a very surreal feel.
       In "UFO in Kushiro" the central character's wife leaves him, a sudden and complete break -- without, of course, any personal confrontation: he just returns home to find she has gone. The man, Komura, then travels to Hokkaido at the suggestion of a colleague, who has him deliver a mysterious small box. The Kobe earthquake plays a large role here, both in his wife's leaving and as a reflection of his own unsettled state.
       "Landscape with Flatiron" is dominated by a late-night beachside bonfire lighting. Not much happens, the most tense moments involving the question of whether the collected driftwood will catch fire. Yet it still manages to be a nice reflection of youthful life and concerns:

What's important is now. Who knows when the world is gonna end ? Who can think about the future ?
       In "All God's Children can Dance" Yoshiya is the son of a woman who found religion (and is, during the story, down in Kansai helping with the earthquake relief). He only learnt the 'secret' of his mysterious birth when he was seventeen. Here he believes to see the man who might be his father. He follows him, and finds release from some of what oppressed him. The story verges on the mystical.
       "Thailand" represents a rare foreign foray for Murakami. After attending a conference, Satsuki takes a vacation at a resort. Her driver, Nimit, is the perfect care-taker for her, taking her to a secluded swimming pool away from the hotel where she can rest and swim in peace. Nimit is also an unusual man, having worked for thirty years for a Norwegian who fled to Thailand. The two form an odd bond, and help each other in a way. Again, the story moves towards the mystical.
       "Super-Frog saves Tokyo" tells of an odd relationship between Katagiri and a frog that appears to him and asks him to help save Tokyo from an earthquake far more devastating than the one in Kansai. What sounds ridiculous at first unfolds in neat turns into a surprisingly appealing tale, each advance never quite the expected one. Note also that the frog is just called "Frog" or "Mr.Frog" in the story itself; the name "Super-Frog" is from another story, "All God's Children can Dance": it is what Yoshiya's girlfriend called him in college .....
       Frog -- who spouts Nietzsche and reads the Russian greats -- tells Katagiri:
The whole terrible fight occurred in the area of imagination. That is the precise location of our battlefield. It is there that we experience our victories and our defeats.
       So it is often in Murakami's work, but here far more explicitly than usual.
       The final story, "Honey Pie", presents a familiar wistful Murakami-scenario: an odd threesome (two men who love one woman), a small child (to whom stories are told), and a somewhat successful writer. The writer is looking to the new -- in his personal life, in what he wants to write. He takes a first stab at action, but it's never that easy. Here an 'Earthquake Man' interferes ..... But there is hope at the end.

       A nice collection, more resonant than it might first appear. Deceptively simple, with the familiar Murakami tropes, there is more to these stories than first meets the eye.

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After the Quake: Reviews: Murakami Haruki: Other books by Murakami Haruki under review: Books about Murakami Haruki under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Japanese literature at the complete review
  • David Mitchell's Murakamiesque Ghostwritten

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Murakami Haruki (村上春樹) was born January 12, 1949. He attended Waseda University. He has written several internationally acclaimed bestsellers and is among the best-known contemporary Japanese writers.

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© 2002-2022 the complete review

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