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Sunday, March 04, 2018

after the quake (2002) by Haruki Murakami


Book Review
after the quake (2002)
 by Haruki Murakami


 I'm not sure why short stories are so dramatically underrepresented in 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  They left Anton Chekov off the list entirely. There are a few short story collections between 1980 and the publication date of 2006, almost none before that point.    I do like Haruki Marakami.  It is quite a feat for a novelist/writer to make deep inroads in American literary fiction in translation, and that is exactly what Murakami has done, with a shelf of books that are still in print and often available for purchase at local independent book stores.

   Even as a fan, after the quake, a collection of previously published short stories that are loosely thematically bound by the 1995 Kobe earthquake.  It is true that the characters and themes resemble those of his earlier books.  That predictability is an important asset when it comes to developing and maintaining an audience that purchases the work and grows over time.  It's true whether someone is writing literary fiction, romance novels or making films.   It's also true that predictability and repetition is often disdained by the aesthetic ideology of contemporary artists.   This disdain is rooted in the adoption by artists of an aesthetic ideology that flows directly from 18th and 19th century Romanticism. 

  after the quake represents a shift for Murakami in matters of style- all stories are narrated from the third person, abandoning the first person narrative common to his previous books.  You could say that the whimsy and affectation has been toned down, and that Murakami has embraced a more conventional style.  You could argue that this shift isn't the best move for Murakami.  His appeal for American readers is linked directly to the whimsy and fantastical plot devices of his earlier books.  On the other hand, after the quake was published well after he became a "made man" in English translation, so the risk of some kind of career ending error is non existent. 

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