review (somewhat) of 1Q84 by haruki murakami

The first book of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 has been one of my most interesting reads lately, among others.

His characters are enigmatic, his dialogues are provocative, his plot is thrilling, and cardinally, his writing style is beyond intriguing and propels 1Q84 to cascade in seamless, yet dynamically unpredictable waves. This trilogy is unlike any other, and incomparable to teenage fads of Hunger Games, Divergent, Chaos Walking and Void, all of which, for the record, I have read. Due to the fact that the novel was first published in three volumes in Japan in 2009, Murakami’s book is most suitably referred to as a three-volumed novel instead of a trilogy.

The first book of 1Q84 is told from the perspective of its two main protagonists, (not that there is really an antagonist here yet). The first point-of-view is from that of Aomame, which is literally “green peas” in Japanese. She is portrayed as a sex-crazed, apparent non-lesbian-although-has-been-aroused-by-a-woman, violent men-killer, best friend of a policewoman, 30-year old female gym instructor who teaches old, rich butterfly-obsessed widows how to kick men’s genitals in ten separate techniques. The other perspective is marginally less cryptic, being a normal cram school math teacher, and an aspiring writer named Tengo, although he looks like neither of them due to his comparatively bulky and tall physique. The most fascinating part of this relationship is that the two never meet in the first volume, but they undoubtedly possess a mysterious connection through their pasts.

As the plot progresses, it is evident that 1Q84 is a clear nod to George Orwell’s inordinate 1984, if this was not already obvious enough from the title. The Q in 1Q84 is a connotation of uncertainty, being the way Aomame feels about her changing world. Similar to 1984, Murakami’s novel targets societal, or rather, possible societal issues. The legendary Big Brother in 1984 is represented by Little People in 1Q84, being complete contrasts in their names. Their roles, however, are largely similar, both ambiguous in seesawing between good and evil. Big Brother is symbolic of the mind-controlling Party that practises strict domestic surveillance, while the Little People seem to be part of a revolutionary group Sakigake, from which the enigma of a seventeen-year old girl, Fuka-Eri, escapes from. This revolutionary group is disguised as a Buddhist-inspired religion that farms for self-sufficiency.

“Where there is light, there must be shadow, where there is shadow there must be light. There is no shadow without light and no light without shadow…. We do not know if the so-called Little People are good or evil. This is, in a sense, something that surpasses our understanding and our definitions. We have lived with them since long, long ago– from a time before good and evil even existed, when people’s minds were still benighted.”

The only respite from Murakami’s otherwise impeccable first volume is his descriptions of visual setting in the novel. This may be both a good and a bad thing. Personally, I have never loved the extensive detail some writers go to, illustrating a setting with four pages worth of factual information. I have never been one for facts, which is palpable in 1984, unfortunately. Although some might not appreciate the slight lack in description in this sense, I find the depth of Murakami’s visual narrations apt, and efficaciously made up for in the way he describes atmosphere and memory.

By the same token, Murakami writes in a brilliantly effortless manner, weaving intricate backstories of his characters into his immaculate plots – the timing of their reminiscence always felicitous and effective. He tells the stories of Tengo’s torturous NHK fee-collecting childhood, which explains his distaste for Sundays, and his traumatic experience as a one-year old watching “a man who was not his father” fondle and (for lack of a less crude word) suck his mother’s breasts. This is a clear reference to Freud’s Oedipus theory, with Tengo feeling a sort of jealousy towards seeing another man supposedly feed on his mother’s milk. Murakami also depicts Aomame’s equally agonising childhood of being forced into the cult “the Society of Witnesses”. In the novel, their connection first begins when Tengo helps Aomame out of bullying in a science class, and Aomame proceeds to hold his hand in silence, in a subtly sensational and seemingly serendipitous moment. Evidence of his delicately impeccable writing is not only in Tengo and Aomame, but Murakami incorporates the story of Fuka-Eri and her inspiration for her novel, Air Chrysalis perfectly as well.

A signature of Murakami that makes his writing all the more exceptional is his short, concise sentences when translated from Japanese. This is a stark contrast from the lengthy style of Orwell. In spite of this, both writers are fortunately, not verbose (unlike my constant verbosity inundation), and generally succinct. Their astounding creation of both worlds are also exemplary and mind-boggling. Moreover, the characters in both 1984 and 1Q84 seem to correlate in some ways. The cold and superior editor Komatsu, who serves as a mentor to Tengu in 1Q84, resembles the equivocal, ambivalent character of O’Brien in 1984.

This leads us to the inevitable question: Is 1984 a parallel universe to 1Q84? If that is the case, then is Julia to Winston as Aomame is to Tengo? Who, then, is Fuka-Eri supposed to be? And what in the world is this blind goat? These questions are left unanswered, and we can only hope to unmask them in the next two volumes.

As a result of the mysteriously cogent expression of this mind-contorting legend that is 1Q84, I am now utterly convinced that there are two moons in the sky, a big, white one embracing the small, green one from a distance.

There are two moons in the sky. There are.

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