Even though I only had to read one book for the Japanese Reading Challenge hosted by Dolce Bellezza, I almost thought I wasn’t going to make it. But, I read my one book and now I get to tell you a bit about it.
After The Quake by Haruki Murakami is a collection of stories which feature in one way or another the Kobe Earthquake that struck Japan in 1995. I guess feature is not really the right word as in some of the stories it seems like it is just talked about in passing but I think it speaks about the lingering effects that major events have in the lives of ordinary people.
Sometimes these events leave us sad, confused, angry or just reaching and grasping at something. We can’t put our fingers on it but I think it’s just a way to try to make sense of what has happened. I think this is particularly evident in the first story in the collection, which is one of my favorites, UFO In Kushiro. The main character, an electronics salesman, is surprised when his wife leaves him suddenly. They hadn’t had any problems that he knew of but one day after she had been watching non-stop coverage of the Kobe Earthquake, she packed her bags and left.
“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.”
How many times have you been rooted in front of the news not believing what you are seeing and hearing and yet you can’t turn away? It happens to all of us and we can relate. Can’t you just see the woman on the couch staring at the television? I understand how sometimes after such shocking events you have to look at your life and make a change.
The other story I quite liked was the one of Super-Frog Saves Tokyo. Yes, there is a superhero frog and it sounds totally unbelievable but again I think it shows how we like to believe in good over evil and saving the day.
I’ve really enjoyed a couple of other Murakami novels and I had high hopes for this one but in the end it is not a favorite. Some of the stories felt incomplete to me but more than anything I think in this case it was certainly a timing issue as the Haiti Earthquake is still very much in the news and it’s just heartbreaking to read the stories.
I’ll definitely try another Haruki Murakami book but I may stick with his novels. For now, I just want to say a big thank you to Dolce Bellezza for hosting this wonderful challenge for the third year. Can’t wait until the next round.