I count Murakami among my favorite writers. I read three of his books before this one-The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Kafka on the Shore-and fell in love with all of them. I have several more on my bookshelves to be read.
Since it has been a good while since I revisited Murakami, I decided to give his longest novel to date a try. In fact, it has been over two years since I read Kafka on the Shore, far too long to read anything by one of the best!
As with many Murakami novels, 1Q84 alternates between two protagonists. Aomame is a Tokyo fitness instructor in 1984 who moonlights as an assassin of abusive men. While being stuck in traffic on her way to the next target, she is convinced to take a shortcut through an emergency stairwell. This shortcut mysteriously transports her to a parallel world, which she calls 1Q84 (Q stands for question). At first, Aomame notices slight changes in this world, such as how the police wear different uniforms and now carry stronger firearms. One night Aomame finds the biggest change of all-this world has two moons in its sky, the normal one and a smaller greenish one.
Tengo is a mathematics instructor who moonlights as a writer. When his editor coerces him into fraudulently rewriting a novel by teenager Fuka-Eri called “Air Chrysalis,” Tengo is transported into the mysterious parallel world. Fuka-Eri is an enigma herself, having grown up in a religious cult that is apparently being controlled by a dark force known as “The Little People.” Over time, we learn that Tengo knew Aomame when they were children and is still very much in love with her. As events continue to unfold, the two of them are slowly being pulled back together.
This is the simplest explanation I can give in the way of plot, and believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Murakami tackles some very hefty themes in this novel, such as religious cults, free will vs. destiny, and finding true love. He handles these issues in his typical style, usually with heavy amounts of sex and violence. Murakami uses a narrative voice that is strangely detached, and typically character scenes are very one-on-one engagements. There is a tranquil mood in a Murakami novel, even when that are huge dramatic moments occurring in the way of plot. Expect a lot of horrific violence that is matched by the amount of philosophizing by most of the characters. The result is a rather unique reading experience that is not like any other novelist I have ever read before.
I started this book holding on to all of the mysteries and patiently waiting for them to unfold. However, I have come to realize that to truly enjoy a work by Murakami you have to be prepared for no direct answers. Although there is an ending, there is no neat and tidy resolution. Although you may dislike this book, you will be thinking about the puzzles long after you are done. Murakami is a great author to analyze, and it helps me when I think about characters as symbols of our consciousness. There is meaning to be worked out from Murakami, and I think that each reader will discover his or her own interpretation of the text.This is the lasting impact Murakami has on his audience.
Here is my main issue with 1Q84-Murakami’s unique blend of realism and the fantastic is difficult to get through with such a long work. I enjoyed this novel immensely; however, I would not recommend this to someone who has never read Murakami. His combination of a simplistic writing style and very complicated and philosophical plots can only be fully enjoyed by the seasoned veterans to his works. If any of you out there are interested in giving him a try, I would recommend his one completely realist novel Norwegian Wood or the fantastic The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to see him at the height of his powers. His writing style is fun to read, and he definitely has influenced my own creativity.
Just remember to lose yourself to the experience.
“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.”