Sunday, 4 April 2010

After the Quake

Title: After the Quake

Author: Haruki Murakami

Number of pages: 132

Started: 31 March 2010

Finished: 4 April 2010

Opening words:

Five straight days she spent in front of the television, staring at crumbled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways. She never said a word. Sunk deep in the cushions of the sofa, her mouth clamped shut, she wouldn't answer when Komura spoke to her. She wouldn't shake her head or nod. Komura could not be sure the sound of his voice was even getting through to her.

Komura's wife came from way up north in Yamagata and, as far as he knew, she had no friends or relatives who could have been hurt in Kobe. Yet she stayed rooted in front of the television from morning to night. In his presence, at least, she ate nothing and drank nothing and never went to the toilet. Aside from an occasional flick of the remote control to change the channel, she hardly moved a muscle.

Read a longer excerpt here.

Plot summary:

The economy was booming. People had more money than they knew what to do with. And then, the earthquake struck. Komura's wife follows the TV reports from morning to night, without eating or sleeping. The same images appear again and again: flames, smoke, buildings turned to rubble, their inhabitants dead, cracks in the streets, derailments, crashes, collapsed expressways, crushed subways, fires everywhere. Pure hell. Suddenly, a city seems a fragile thing. And life too. Tomorrow anything could happen. For the characters in Murakami's latest short story collection, the Kobe earthquake is an echo from a past they buried long ago. Satsuki has spent 30 years hating one man: a lover who destroyed her chances of having children, and who now lives in Kobe. Did her desire for revenge cause the earthquake? Junpei's estranged parents also live in Kobe. Should he contact them? Miyake left his family in Kobe to make midnight bonfires on a beach hundreds of miles away. Four-year-old Sala has nightmares that the Eathquake man is trying to stuff her inside a little box. Katagiri returns home to find a giant frog in his apartment on a mission to save Tokyo from a massive worm burrowing under the Tokyo Security Trust Bank. "When he gets angry, he causes earthquakes" says Frog. "And right now he is very, very angry."

What I thought:

This was a short, but good, read. It was made up of a series of short stories that told the tales of different people affected by the Kobe earthquake. It was a well written and slightly quirky read that told an engaging story. I really like Murakami’s writing style and this book was one of rather shorter works and a nicely observed tale.

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