After Dark

Author: Haruki Murakami

Finished Reading: November 29, 2022

Number of Pages: 258

After Dark is the second work of Murakami that I've read. I'm very much a morning person but Murakami, amid the many conflicts in the book, romanticizes what it's like to be a night owl and operate in the dark depths of a sleeping city. Between After Dark and Kafka on the Shore, I've also gained a lot of respect for Japanese culture and, if it were up to me, would fly over in a moment's notice. As much as I enjoy the metaphysical components in Murakami's works, I enjoyed this realistic fiction for a change of pace.

A theme throughout the text that made me sit down and think is the anonymity of society and the many underlying processes that take place in a city at any given moment:

Each of those under transport is a human being with a different face and mind, and at the same time each is a nameless part of the collective entity. Each is simultaneously a self-contained whole and a mere part. Handling this dualism of theirs skillfully and advantageously, they perform their morning rituals with deftness and precision.

I like to think of every city as its own anthill with indistinguishable entities carrying out their own duties and pursuing their desires: the same sensation you get when you look out the airplane window and see all those tiny cars and people going about their business. Or when you're on a freeway and look at the many cars around you, wondering what the lives of those around you are like. Whether or not I want it to, this sometimes evokes an existential crisis in which I'm reminded I'm also one of those ants, indistinguishable from the rest. I can't help but think I am a white sheep funneling into the same lifestyle as everyone else. As I write this, I'm looking at the many people around me and am reminded of my indistinguishable ant-like behavior. And as much as I'd like to invoke my tidbits of stoic advice that our purpose in life is to be bees part of a beehive, I feel this is an underwhelming reassurance. As I'm entering new stages of my life in which I'm discovering different lifestyles, people, and cultures, I'll make sure to return to this thought and reevaluate.

On the point of being a night owl: I love the idea of working the night away on something you're passionate about without the worry of people interfering. Demis Hassabis and Andrej Karpathy have mentioned something along these lines. If you're on the verge of a breakthrough in your work, you are free to continue working for however long it'll take until you're satisfied. I might be wrong, but I believe Demis also added that upon completing the deep work that the night demands, you can afford to sleep as much as you'd like. I've attempted this from time to time, usually when I have no commitments the next day, but often find I'm too tired to carry out my work. Chances are I already expended all my deep work in the early hours of the day and don't have enough energy for a second sprint at night when I'd typically sleep. In that sense, I'd need to condition myself to undergo something like this. What's more, I'm not one who can typically sleep in and therefore rarely wake up refreshed after a late night. Perhaps when I have my own family, I'll have no choice but to pursue my personal interests late at night, but for the time being, I'll enjoy the tranquility and excitement of the early morning hours.

Some excerpts I enjoyed:

Even at a time like this, the street is bright enough and filled with people coming and going—people with places to go and people with no place to go; people with a purpose and people with no purpose; people trying to hold time back and people trying to urge it forward.
Her consciousness seems to resist awakening. What it wants to do is exclude the encroaching world of reality and go on sleeping without end in a soft, enigmatic darkness.
It's my motto for life. 'Walk slowly; drink lots of water.'
A cycle has been completed, all disturbances have been resolved, perplexities have been concealed, and things have returned to their original state. Around us, cause and effect join hands, and synthesis and division maintain their equilibrium. Everything, finally, unfolded in a place resembling a deep, inaccessible fissure. Such places open secret entries into darkness in the interval between midnight and the time the sky grows light. None of our principles have any effect there. No one can predict when or where such abysses will swallow people, or when or where they will spit them out.
The new day is almost here, but the old one is still dragging its heavy skirts. Just as ocean water and river water struggle against each other at a river mouth, the old time and the new time clash and blend. Takahashi is unable to tell for sure which side—which world—contains his center of gravity.
It could be a day like all the others, or it could be a day remarkable enough in many ways to remain in the memory.