I’ve read some of Murakami before and liked it, although I found it sort of bemusing I suppose. I was also attracted to this book after watching The Wind Rises, a Studio Ghibli film which features the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake which killed at least 100,000 people. After The Quake is actually set in the mid 1990’s after the 1995 Kobe Earthquake which killed over 6,000 people. There’s an earthquake simulator at the Natural History Museum in London that simulates a 2011 Japanese earthquake, clearly it’s a shakey place.
The Kobe quake was Japan’s worst since the one in 1923, although significantly less people died by 1995 everyone in Japan was able to watch hours of non-stop TV footage of the quake and aftermath. And indeed the first chapter of After The Quake starts with Komura trying to pry his wife away from the TV screen but she continues to sit in front of it for five days watching images of the destruction. There are six chapters and each has a different protagnosist, they are completely unrelated execpt that they have all been touched by the Kobe quake. None of them have lost friend or family, it’s more that such a large scale natural disaster affects everyone. In fact, many of the characters are asked ‘Are you from Kobe?’
Komura’s wife ends up leaving him, clearly the earthquake has shaken something in her, prompting her to realise she can no longer live with him. There’s a weird story about Katagari who comes home to find a six foot tall frog in his apartment who convinces him to help fight a giant worm which will cause another earthquake in Tokyo. The last story is the sweetest, a little girl with a creepy dream about an Earthquake Man trying to get her. But it’s really more about her ‘uncle’ Junpei and his unrequited love for her mother.
It’s all very Japanese, with all the male characters very pre-occupied with erections, but also American Jazz, and also giant talking frogs. I liked it, as with the other Murakami book I read. Although I wished it was a longer or that the chapters were a little longer so I had more chance to get into it.