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After the Quake: Stories Paperback – May 13, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

Haruki Murakami, a writer both mystical and hip, is the West's favorite Japanese novelist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Murakami lived abroad until 1995. That year, two disasters struck Japan: the lethal earthquake in Kobe and the deadly poison gas attacks in the Tokyo subway. Spurred by these tragic events, Murakami returned home. The stories in After the Quake are set in the months that fell between the earthquake and the subway attack, presenting a world marked by despair, hope, and a kind of human instinct for transformation. A teenage girl and a middle-aged man share a hobby of making beach bonfires; a businesswoman travels to Thailand and, quietly, confronts her own death; three friends act out a modern-day Tokyo version of Jules and Jim. There's a surreal element running through the collection in the form of unlikely frogs turning up in unlikely places. News of the earthquake hums throughout. The book opens with the dull buzz of disaster-watching: "Five straight days she spent in front of the television, staring at the crumbled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways." With language that's never self-consciously lyrical or show-offy, Murakami constructs stories as tight and beautiful as poems. There's no turning back for his people; there's only before and after the quake. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

These six stories, all loosely connected to the disastrous 1995 earthquake in Kobe, are Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; Norwegian Wood) at his best. The writer, who returned to live in Japan after the Kobe earthquake, measures his country's suffering and finds reassurance in the inevitability that love will surmount tragedy, mustering his casually elegant prose and keen sense of the absurd in the service of healing. In "Honey Pie," Junpei, a gentle, caring man, loses his would-be sweetheart, Sayoko, when his aggressive best friend, Takatsuki, marries her. They have a child, Sala. He remains close friends with them and becomes even closer after they divorce, but still cannot bring himself to declare his love for Sayoko. Sala is traumatized by the quake and Junpei concocts a wonderful allegorical tale to ease her hurt and give himself the courage to reveal his love for Sayoko. In "UFO in Kushiro" the horrors of the quake inspire a woman to leave her perfectly respectable and loving husband, Komura, because "you have nothing inside you that you can give me." Komura then has a surreal experience that more or less confirms his wife's assessment. The theme of nothingness is revisited in the powerful "Thailand," in which a female doctor who is on vacation in Thailand and very bitter after a divorce, encounters a mysterious old woman who tells her "There is a stone inside your body.... You must get rid of the stone. Otherwise, after you die and are cremated, only the stone will remain." The remaining stories are of equal quality, the characters fully developed and memorable. Murakami has created a series of small masterpieces.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 147 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (May 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375713271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375713279
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert S Michaels on August 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While I doubt there would ever come a day when I wouldn't read a new book of his, I do have to say that it's felt to me for a while (since Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) like he wasn't exactly in his groove any more. Maybe it was the tighter focus of those later books that didn't appeal to me as much. Whatever the reason, After the Quake is the man at his best. The stories are short and the book is overall a quick read, but that... density... is back. Each one bears re-reading. I still wouldn't recommend it as the best starting point (I for some reason always recommend Sheep Chase or Hardboiled for that), but still, great stuff.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Joseph J. Hanssen on October 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
All of Murakami's novels are best sellers, and he is perhaps the most recognized and noted Japanese author in the U.S. and around the world. Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I have enjoyed all of his previous novels, and now this little book of short stories kept me turning the pages past the midnight hour. Murakami drew me in with his simple language and the powerful dialogue of his intriguing characters. These six stories are all related to the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995. The stories are set in the months between the natural disaster and the poison gas attacks that occurred in Tokyo's subways. Both of these events dramatically changed the physical and social landscape of Japan. For each of the characters in these stories, the earthquake's emotional aftershock set off an unreal chain of events.
I enjoyed all of these stories, but a few were my favorites. In "Super-Frog Saves Tokyo", a loan-collector teams up with a man-sized frog to fight an enormous worm that threatens to destroy Tokyo. In "Landscape With Flatiron", we learn about Miyake's passion in building bonfires with his companion Junko, and what it all symbolizes. And last but not least, in "Honey Pie", we are presented with a complex, passionate story about a love triangle that takes place over many years.

We are exposed to a lot of human suffering in these stories. Murakami, however, sheds light and hope in all of these stories by showing us the courage, strength, and compassion these devastated people possess in overcoming any tragedy that they may have to face. I always look forward to Murakami's new novels. Now, I can, hopefully, look forward to more short stories by this talented author. This is a beautifully written collection of stories. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Joe Hanssen
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on August 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In a simple, unpretentious, and totally accessible style, Murakami tells six tales, each with a message about life and death and love and loss. Simple, straightforward stories, haunting and hypnotic in tone, belie a complexity of themes and thought-provoking observations about the importance of creating your own identity, building relationships, sharing, and avoiding the emptiness of the bogeyman's box, "ready for everybody...[and] waiting with the lid open."

All the main characters are single or separated, and all feel isolated and empty, naïve in matters of love and life. In "UFO in Kashiro," an abandoned husband agrees to help a friend by delivering a box to Hokkaido, only to discover that the box "contains the something that was inside you. You'll never get it back." In "Landscape in Flatiron," a 40-ish artist and a young girl meet and build a bonfire. "The fire itself has to be free," he remarks, while the young girl comments on the emptiness of her life, and they make plans for the rest of the evening. In "All God's Children Can Dance," a young man pursues the man he believes to be his father to an abandoned baseball field, "chasing the tail of the darkness inside [him]." "Thailand" features a doctor in her 40's who is told that she must get rid of the stone inside her and that "living and dying are, in a sense, of equal value."

In the last two stories, "Superfrog Saves Tokyo," and "Honey Pie," Murakami begins to offer more hope and direction to his characters.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is for the reader who posted a note about the title story mentioned by the inside cover: the original Japanese title of this collection is "Kamisama no kodomo ha minna odoru," or "All God's Children Can Dance." My guess is, they wrote the inside cover and then decided later on to change the title to "After the Quake." I guess the editor missed that :-)
I'm a die-hard Murakami fan, so nothing I can say about this collection would be fair or subjective. The ellusive "title story" left me shaken, and I ended up reading it three more times to figure out what it was that haunted me. Wow...
Murakami's new novel just came out here in Japan! "Kafka on the Shore," a big fat monster of a book that's been published in two volumes. I'm about halfway into the first part, and structually, it's turning out to be a lot like "Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of World" in that there are two stories going on simultaneously and seem, in some way, to be connected. And like "Wind-up Bird Chronicle," war-history makes up a lot o the plot. Oh, when will the English translation come out!!
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