After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
Reading Challenge: A book translated to English.
I had a vague idea, for a few months, that maybe I would read a translated book for the reading challenge that was not one of Murakami’s. I even started one (but, under the stress of graduation times, found it too dense and gave up). Then came the gift card, and the used copy of After the Quake just sitting there in the bookstore. I resigned myself to the inevitable. I just really love Murakami, you guys.
Now, I don’t love all of Murakami’s books. I think 1Q84 and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle are masterpieces, and After Dark is my favorite. But I haven’t been able to get into Kafka on the Shore, and the last short story collection of his that I read, The Elephant Vanishes, was just too claustrophobic for me. So I didn’t know exactly what to expect with this one.
After the Quake was just lovely, though. It’s a slim book, a collection of 6 stories all with a connection to the Kobe earthquake of 1995. Perhaps because of that connection, there’s something a little more restrained about these stories, maybe a little more grounded. The last story, “Honey Pie,” is just as sweet as its title (but not cloying at all, I loved it), while “Landscape with Flatiron” is a quintessential story of lost souls connecting. Everyone’s a little lost in these stories, but sometimes they get something: a dance, a connection, some advice, the realization that they already have someone, an extremely polite but determined giant frog in search of assistance.
Gosh, it’s good. It’s fairly accessible, too, so if you’ve been curious about this author, this wouldn’t be the worst place to start. If you’re already familiar with Murakami but haven’t read this one yet, though, don’t worry, it’s still plenty weird.
Recommended pairing: I want to recommend something a little weird, not to all tastes, and kind of complex for a pairing, but I’m honestly not that good at booze. It’s been really hot, though, and you know what’s a great hot-weather drink? A nice chilled Riesling. I’ll bet you can find one that’s appropriately complex if you look hard enough.