Sunday, November 16, 2008

After the Quake

Many of my blogging friends are reading and enjoying the books of Haruki Murakami, so I was very interested in reading something by him for Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 2. I chose his book, After the Quake, a collection of six short stories, each one connected indirectly with the 1995 Kobe Earthquake in Japan.
Another reason I chose this book was because I live in "earthquake country" and have personally experienced an earthquake and some of the emotional after-effects that inevitably follow such an event. In 2001, the Nisqually quake shook Western Washington. It did not have the destructive power of the Kobe quake, but there was significant damage to structures in the area and to everyone's sense of well-being. Even though I'd felt earthquakes before, on that day I felt the earth's crust ripple beneath my feet and I will never be the same. The earth simply doesn't feel as solid to me as it did before that experience.
"Strange and mysterious things, though, aren't they -- earthquakes?" the man says. "We take it for granted that the earth beneath our feet is solid and stationary. But suddenly one day . . . the earth, the boulders, that are supposed to be so solid, all of a sudden turn as mushy as liquid."
Murakami, in these six short stories, writes about the emotional upheavals and after-effects that follow a major disaster. Lives are changed in little and in big ways, and he writes about individuals that are searching for themselves and for meaning in a world changed by disaster. And I liked this comment from an unofficial, but very interesting, Murakami web site:
But the most compelling character of all is the earthquake itself--slipping into and out of view almost imperceptibly, but nonetheless reaching deep into the lives of these forlorn citizens of the apocalypse. The terrible damage visible all around is, in fact, less extreme than the inconsolable howl of a nation indelibly scarred--an experience in which Murakami discovers many truths about compassion, courage, and the nature of human suffering.
After the Quake was well-written and powerful. I will definitely read more of Murakami's books.


Bellezza said...

Robin, I bought this book (along with every other Murakami book I could find!) and I can't wait to read it. What seems especially compelling, in addition to your fantastic review complete with pictures, is that I imagine we can apply the ideas here to our lives even if we don't live through an earthquake. I mean, unexpected tragedies occur all the time don't they? I like reading about how other people are affected by, and ultimately transformed by, these dramatic events in their lives.

Be prepared for for some Murakami prize packs coming in the challenge!

Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog, as I was curious about Jap LIT! I am thankful for such wonderful recommendations :)

And I think I will join this challenge too :)


Bellezza said...

Veens, welcome! I'm so glad you're joining. If you wish to send me your email, I'll add you on to the participant list so that youc an post if you want to.

Bellezza said...

Um, that email address for me would be:

I looked for your email on your blog, very briefly, but I couldn't see it. Sorry.

DreamQueen said...

After the Quake is an amazing book. I wish Murakami would get as much attention for it as he does for things like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, etc.

Mark David said...

after the quake is possibly the shortest, slimmest Murakami book there is, but it is just as powerful as his other works.

The stories UFO in Kushiro, All God's Children Can Dance, and Honey Pie are simply wonderful. If you enjoyed Honey Pie, then I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy Norwegian Wood. I consider it to be one of Murakami's best novels... but then again, pretty much that has the mark of signature Murakami is a masterpiece.