August 30, 2012


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Reviewed by Katherine

Like many of Haruki Murakami's previous novels, 1Q84 is a surreal detective story set against a soberly and minutely described urban Japanese backdrop. Fans will recognize much that is similar from his other works: the male protagonist is as ordinary as the female characters are mysterious; there is a town of strange, talking cats; music played from records sets the mood. The story is told from the dual perspectives of Tengo and Aomame, who are searching for each other in a world that is nearly, but not quite, Tokyo of 1984. (In Japanese, the number nine is pronounced "kyuu," or "Q"; 1Q84 is the name Aomame gives to the queer alternate reality that she finds herself in — "A world that bears a question mark.")

At 928 pages 1Q84 is by no means a short novel, nor is it tightly edited. It is packed with description: step by step accounts of making dinner, of a character's back and forth thinking, of scenery and advertisements. This detail is a lure that pulls you into the extraordinary so quick that, before you know it, you will want to check how many moons there are in the sky. The fantastical is slipped in expertly, slyly – it provides not an escape from reality, but a means of drawing attention to it.

The past and its bearing on the present is also an important theme; it haunts 1Q84's characters in the form of police uniforms, a little dog, and of an inappropriately sexual scene observed from a crib. As in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty–Four, the past in 1Q84 is obscured, but the culprit is not as straightforward. At some points, the Little People (perhaps 1Q84's Big Brother counterpoint) are seemingly to blame; but at others, fault and intention are ambiguous. At points where memory is clear, it imprisons the novel's characters — but it is also such a memory that lies at the heart of the story, and that drives the plot forward towards its resolution.

At the end of the novel, a taxicab driver responds to a question by saying the answer is "sort of a long story." Aomame responds that she would like to hear it, and thinks: &qout;Long and boring was fine by her. She wanted to hear people’s stories in this new world. There might be new secrets there, new hints."

1Q84, never boring, is packed with hints.

Posted by Arlo at 05:54 PM
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