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Old 06-07-2013, 03:00 AM   #1
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after the quake by Haruki Murakami

This is the MR Literary Club selection for June 2013. Whether you've already read it or would like to, feel free to start or join in the conversation at any time! Guests are also always welcome.


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So, what are your thoughts on it?


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Old 06-07-2013, 05:01 AM   #2
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To refresh my memory:
Spoiler:
(6 short stories, 200 pages, published in 2000)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_the_quake

"The stories were written in response to Japan's 1995 Kobe earthquake, and each story is affected peripherally by the disaster. Along withUnderground, a collection of interviews and essays about the 1995 Tokyo gas attacks, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a complex exploration of Japan's modern history, after the quake represents part of an effort on the part of Murakami to adopt a more purposeful exploration of the Japanese national conscience.

The stories in after the quake repeat motifs, themes, and elements common in much of Murakami's earlier short stories and novels, but also present some notable stylistic changes. All six stories are told in the third person, as opposed to Murakami's much more familiar first person narrative established in his previous work. Additionally, only one of the stories contains clear supernatural elements, which are present in the majority of Murakami's stories. All of the stories are set in February 1995, the month between the Kobe earthquake and the Tokyo gas attacks. Translator Jay Rubin says of the collection, "The central characters in after the quake live far from the physical devastation, which they witness only on TV or in the papers, but for each of them the massive destruction unleashed by the earth itself becomes a turning point in their lives. They are forced to confront an emptiness they have borne inside them for years."

The stories were original published in:
UFO in Kushiro…. The New Yorker
Landscape with Flat iron…. Ploughshares
All God's Children Can Dance… Harper's
Thailand… Granta
Super-Frog Saves Tokyo..GQ
Honey Pie… The New Yorker

I started to read the first story: 'UFO in Kushiro' and right away I thought that this first story is about the earthquake in Kobo, but also about a personal earthquake.
Spoiler:
A minor earth quake perhaps, as Komura's wife suddenly leaves him:
'But the letter his wife left for him when she vanished five days after the earthquake was different: I am never coming back, she had written, then went on to explain, simply but clearly, why she no longer wanted to live with him.
The problem is that you never give me anything, she wrote. Or, to put it more precisely, you have nothing inside you that you can give me. You are good and kind and handsome, but living with you is like living with a chunk of air'(page 8)

Last edited by desertblues; 06-07-2013 at 05:08 AM. Reason: I put the information about the book in spoilers...
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Old 06-07-2013, 04:56 PM   #3
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After the Quake would not have been my first choice, but I am quite happy with the selection. I have really enjoyed the other books by him that I have read. There was recently a question in the quiz thread (in the Lounge Forum) about past winners of the Kafka Prize. I knew that Murakami was one, but not any of the others. Anyway an author that wins that prize rises in stature in my opinion. I do like Kafka.
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Old 06-07-2013, 05:55 PM   #4
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I love Kafka and I have enjoyed most of the Murakami I've read. He can be odd at times and I'm wondering how or if some of his themes in the novels show in the shorter form.
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Old 06-08-2013, 04:47 AM   #5
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I love Kafka and I have enjoyed most of the Murakami I've read. He can be odd at times and I'm wondering how or if some of his themes in the novels show in the shorter form.
I'm currently reading another of his short story collections, "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman". The introduction to it gives a fair bit of information about his oscillating back and forth between novels and short stories. He seems to use short stories as a break from the ordeal of novel writing. Some of the ideas for his novels came from short stories, but I'm not sure if it ever worked in the other direction. Anyway, I recommend reading that introduction if you have the chance. I'm also greatly enjoying the stories there, so anyone who likes "After the Quake" should pick it up, as well.
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Old 06-09-2013, 02:51 PM   #6
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After reading the first two, I feel that he is a kind of japanese version of the Anglo-Irish writer, Elizabeth Bowen. Bowen, of course, came from a vastly different culture and while she dealt with sexuality, it was very much as a sub-text. But there is {IMO} a marked similarity in their interest in the explorations of the nature of the self, inner meaning, and passivity. Both writers also tend to end their stories elliptically.

When I finish reading the set, perhaps my opinion will be different, but that's the impression I get so far.
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Old 06-09-2013, 05:16 PM   #7
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My first impressions after a few stories:
Yes, these 'open endings' are interesting. I've read the first three stories and the endings of the first two made me shiver somewhat and I wondered what would/could happen to the protagonists. From Ufo in Kushuro
Spoiler:
Shimao traced a complicated design on Komura’s chest with her fingertip, as if casting a magic spell.
“But really,” she said, “you’re just at the beginning.'

From Landscape with flatiron
Spoiler:
“Anyhow, let’s wait till the fire burns out,” Miyake said. “We built it, so we ought to keep it company to the end. Once it goes out, and it turns pitch-dark, then we can die.”
“Good,” Junko said. “But how?”
“I’ll think of something.”
“OK.”
Wrapped in the smell of the fire, Junko closed her eyes. Miyake’s arm across her shoulders was rather small for that of a grown man, and strangely bony. I could never live with this man, she thought. I could never get inside his heart. But I might be able to die with him.'

But the ending of the third story 'All God's children can dance" seems to be different, seems to end in harmony with the universe.
Spoiler:
Kneeling on the pitcher’s mound, Yoshiya gave himself up to the flow of time. Somewhere in the distance he heard the faint wail of a siren. A gust of wind set the leaves of grass to dancing and celebrated the grass’s song before it died.
“Oh God,” Yoshiya said aloud."

About the sexuality in the stories. I don't even know whether that contributes anything to it, except to the atmosphere; like wallpaper. Murakami writes about younger people here, and sexuality is a thing that will occupy their mind.

But...... I'll have to think all through.
Also, as Hamlet 53 mentioned Kafka; I can't help thinking whether I can link Murakami to Kafka. On first sight not, perhaps, but Murakami also changes the view, the experience on the 'normal world' in his stories.

Last edited by desertblues; 06-09-2013 at 06:40 PM.
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Old 06-09-2013, 09:34 PM   #8
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The link that I see to Kafka is the blending of the surreal with the real. Also how many Murakami and Kafka stories seem like the literary equivalent of an abstract painting. It is up to each reader [the viewer] to find there own individual meaning. Just as an example I see this in Landscape with Flatiron by Murakami and Conversation with the Supplicant by Kafka.
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Old 06-10-2013, 02:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hamlet53 View Post
The link that I see to Kafka is the blending of the surreal with the real. Also how many Murakami and Kafka stories seem like the literary equivalent of an abstract painting. It is up to each reader [the viewer] to find there own individual meaning. Just as an example I see this in Landscape with Flatiron by Murakami and Conversation with the Supplicant by Kafka.
Yes, I see what you mean. I find it more obvious though in his "Kafka on the shore"(where fish rains from the sky), than in the stories of 'After the quake".
Murakami has a way of weaving the surreal into the real without the reader realizing that it is so; in the beginning that is. In most of his novels he is rather subtle about it.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:47 AM   #10
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The fourth story. "Thailand" is by far the best I've read so far. How the final two will be I don't know, but "Thailand" is superb--worthy to stand with the short stories of Joyce, Bowen and Frank O'Connor. The other three were interesting but this one moved me. Whatever the quality of the last two, the book is worth this one jewel.
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:17 AM   #11
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I'm glad to hear that, fantasyfan. I have read the first three stories and couldn't really get engaged with them. I'm sure that's my fault rather than Murakami's. It's the first example of his work that I have read and although I have seen a number of Japanese films, I don't think I have read any other Japanese authors either.

So there is no doubt a lack of understanding in me of the subtleties of Japanese culture that would help me here.
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:19 AM   #12
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The fourth story. "Thailand" is by far the best I've read so far. How the final two will be I don't know, but "Thailand" is superb--worthy to stand with the short stories of Joyce, Bowen and Frank O'Connor. The other three were interesting but this one moved me. Whatever the quality of the last two, the book is worth this one jewel.
Fantasyfan: say no more.......I'm going to read this story right away.
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Old 06-11-2013, 11:28 AM   #13
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About the story Thailand: I saw a link about elephants in Bangkok, Thailand
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/wo...anted=all&_r=0
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Old 06-11-2013, 02:50 PM   #14
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The fourth story. "Thailand" is by far the best I've read so far. How the final two will be I don't know, but "Thailand" is superb--worthy to stand with the short stories of Joyce, Bowen and Frank O'Connor. The other three were interesting but this one moved me. Whatever the quality of the last two, the book is worth this one jewel.
Yes, I like this story as well. It is tender, elegant and mystical.
As in some of the other stories, dreams are important. They seem to form a bridge, a portal to the important things of life.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:57 PM   #15
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Yes, I see what you mean. I find it more obvious though in his "Kafka on the shore"(where fish rains from the sky), than in the stories of 'After the quake".
Murakami has a way of weaving the surreal into the real without the reader realizing that it is so; in the beginning that is. In most of his novels he is rather subtle about it.
Well surely Super-frog Saves Tokyo is surreal enough for anyone.

This is the second collection of short stories by Murakami that I have read, the other being Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. I thought that the latter collection contained a more consistent and stronger set of stories than did After the Quake. This opinion may also have been influenced by the greater number of stories in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (24) relative to only six in After the Quake. One tends to remember good stories and forget others.

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The fourth story. "Thailand" is by far the best I've read so far. How the final two will be I don't know, but "Thailand" is superb--worthy to stand with the short stories of Joyce, Bowen and Frank O'Connor. The other three were interesting but this one moved me. Whatever the quality of the last two, the book is worth this one jewel.
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Yes, I like this story as well. It is tender, elegant and mystical.
As in some of the other stories, dreams are important. They seem to form a bridge, a portal to the important things of life.
I also thought that Thailand was an excellent story, the best of the lot. I also really enjoyed UFO in Kushiro and Landscape with Flatiron. Personally I found Honey Pie to be the weakest of the lot, though I can imagine it would the the most accessible story to some readers.

Returning to Thailand, Murakami seems to often make use of a symbolic stone in his stories. He did it in The Kidney-shaped Stone That Moves Every Day (from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman) and in the novel Kafka on the Shore.
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