“Strange and mysterious things, though, are not they — earthquakes?” the driver says. “We take it for granted that the earth beneath our feet is solid and stationary. But suddenly one day we see that it is not true. The earth, the boulders, that are supposed to be so solid, all of a sudden turn as mushy as liquid.” (p.68)
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Haruki Murakami, the Japanese author, is undoubtedly one of the best writers of modern times, in terms of commercial success as well as having a huge reader base all over the world. ‘After the Quake‘ is a collection of short stories by Murakami. The quake as mentioned in the title is the devastating earthquake that took place in Kobe back in 1995. As a native Japanese writer, natural calamities like the earthquake shook Murakami to the core of his heart. ‘After the Quake‘ is his offering to the fellow citizens as a reminder of how fragile is the human race, and how we are dependent on the higher forces at the end of the day. All that happens in between, as called as ‘life’, is a mere manifestation of our feelings and interactions with fellow human beings.
‘After the Quake‘ is a collection of six short stories. The stories do not talk about the earthquake. Rather they talk about the times during and after the happening of the devastation. The characters, as a perfect ensemble by the storyteller, have someone or the other related to them living at Kobe. The stories speak about how the protagonists had to get used to the fact that they are mere mortals and it could have happened to them as well. Life moves on, even if your parents whom you don’t speak to for the last few years are among the probable victims of the earthquake. While they face it with their lives, it unfolds in front of your eyes through television channels.
The six stories have multiple characters from different aspects of life. All they do is to try to live life, and along the way, meet new people, keep existing relationships ticking and try to live their dreams. And when they realize doing so properly can be really tough, disaster struck in the form of the Kobe earthquake. That’s when the characters start to melt in front of the higher forces and look at life as something beautiful. Among the six stories, ‘Landscape with Flatiron‘, ‘Thailand‘ and ‘Honey Pie‘ move the reader the most.
The stories in this collection are deftly translated by Jay Rubin, a professor of Japanese Literature at the Harvard University. A slender volume that it is, ‘After the Quake‘ quite successfully provides one the necessary push to the imaginary world of Haruki Murakami’s works. ‘Super-Frog saves Tokyo‘, the penultimate piece of this collection is a brilliant story of how a frog tries to save Tokyo from an imaginary-oncoming earthquake.
The Times is quoted on the cover.
In a dance with the delights of Murakami’s imagination we experience the limitless possibilities of fiction. With these stories Haruki Murakami expands our hearts yet again.
We agree to that.
Overall Rating: 8/10
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