After the Quake.
I read After the Quake during the first part of January and then delayed posting about it given the earthquake in Haiti, as there’s not any connection. Murakami’s collection of six short stories centers around the earthquake that took place in Kobe, Japan in 1995, and it’s fallout for various characters in their emotional lives (as many of them were not physically affected).
To be honest, I’m not usually a fan of short stories. I tend to feel as though they’re underdeveloped and incomplete, and normally I try to avoid them. However- and maybe this is just because I love Murakami- I found these stories satisfying and I believe that was in part due to the fact that they all in some way related to the earthquake. Many collections will center around a more abstract unifying feature such as an emotion or general event (a loss), but having these six stories center around one concrete event made for such a cohesive work that I really enjoyed these stories.
Perhaps the second reason this collection is a bit different is that many short story writers will try to beat the reader over head with an epiphany (see also: James Joyce, although I did rather The Dead) or a BIG TAKEAWAY. With Murakami, you get exactly as much depth as you’d like to out of his works, and he’s very seldom heavy-handed with his morals. Rather, he asks questions and introduces idea and lets the reader handle the rest. In short, he shows rather than tells- just as we were all told to do in 8th grade English.
I wouldn’t pick this up looking to relate these stories to earthquakes more generally. After all, Japan before the quake was much different than Haiti was before the quake, and even the earthquakes’ death tolls greatly varied. In the same way unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way, so are natural disasters and their effects all distinct. Only the fact of devastation to some degree is the same.
That said, please donate to Haiti and the relief efforts if you’re able to.