His most famous boundary is the doorway that exists between the bottom of a dried up well and the mysterious hotel room in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, but it doesn’t take a lot of deep reading to find equivalencies in his other books. The most obvious one is spelled out in the title of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World in that most of the novel is about the journey between those two realities. I won’t bore you with more examples but pick up any one of his books and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
His 2007 novel After Dark is no exception. In fact, this short novel almost explicitly deals with the barriers between two states of being. These include:
- The city before and after trains: “Between the time the last train leaves and the first train arrives, the place changes: it’s not the same as in daytime.” (p. 55)
- Eri’s journey out of the “sleep coma” that she’s been in for the last few months
- Takihashi’s speech about criminals vs. non-criminals: “[The criminals] live in a different world, they think different thoughts, and their actions are nothing like mine. Between the world they live in and the world I live in there’s this thick, high wall.” (p. 91)
- One side of the mirror vs. another: Both Mari (p.63) and Shirakawa (p.127) occasionally have reflections that stay in the mirror after they have left the room – and Shirakawa’s reflection even does things that he does not!
- Takahashi’s music: “You send the music deep enough into your heart so that it makes your body undergo a kind of a physical shift, and simultaneously the listener’s body also undergoes the same kind of physical shift. It's giving birth to that shared state.” (p. 88)
- Night vs. Day “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.” (p. 173P
“What we see now is a gigantic metropolis waking up. Commuter trains of many colors move in all directions, transporting people from place to place. 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: brushing teeth, shaving, tying neckties, applying lipstick. They check the morning news on TV, exchange words with their families, eat, and defecate.So what is it about Japanese society that fuels this obsession with boundaries? Again, I don’t feel qualified to speak: I’m on the far side of yet another boundary in that Murakami’s message is coming to me not only across cultures but also through the filter of a translator. It's a fascinating obsession, and I'm in awe not only that so much of his message gets through, but at how powerful it remains after repeated readings.
With daylight, the crows flock in, scavenging for food. Their oily black wings shine in the morning sun. Dualism is not as important an issue for the crows as for the human beings."
Cross-posted on Reading, Running and Red Sox.