#PFReadingClub: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

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With our latest Japan inspired Spring Summer collection out now, we thought might as well spend the weekend with some fantastic literature by our favourite Japanese author.

The 3-volume monumental novel by the most celebrated contemporary Japanese writer Haruki Murakami – 1Q84 is an illusion. Most of his book sales cross millions and the narrative swings between reality and sagas. Murakami is a writer intrinsically known for experimentation.

His texts, which include Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore and many others before he decided to get into popular writing, are often subject to extremist views. It is only logical as they rest on a certain amount of shaded cultural symbolism that can be a little hard to comprehend for the uninitiated. For the same reason, he has earned followers who detest missing even the most arduous works like the one at hand. As for the ones who disagree with his works can be said to be lost in translation. After all, his works are as familiar to the readers as the mystery called Japan to the world itself.

Let’s dive right in, then.

The Title

Apart from the obvious similarity to George Orwell’s classic 1984, the title is a smart play on Japanese pronunciation. ‘9’ and ‘Q’ are homophones in the Japanese language, which tickled Murakami’s fancy to yield the opportunity to present two worlds juxtaposed to each other which the protagonists Aomame and Tengo inhabit.

The References

The text begins with Aomame following the ambivalent directions of a taxi driver while the radio plays Czech composer Janacek’s Sinfonietta. On the other hand, Aomame reads Marcel Proust’s ‘In Search of Lost Time’ which has influenced a number of 20th-century literary pieces. These references are noteworthy and analogous to the book as well.

While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact textual relation to 1984, the cult is somewhat synonymous with Orwell’s ‘Government’ and the ‘Little People’ to the ‘Big Brother’. The dialogue seems to be in tune with the essence of what Orwell affirmed and is apparent in certain events and characters in the book.

The Story

It is 1984 and the story is set in Tokyo. Tengo is a maths teacher who ghostwrites a famous book ‘Air Chrysalis’ originally written by a teenage girl ‘Fuka-Eri’ who has a strange connection with Sakigake (the cult). Aomame is a young and slender woman who executes men that abuse women. Both Aomame and Tengo have a strange connection which persists and is the underlying current of the book. The story is deeply mysterious and can be called a love story to a certain extent.

Aomame knowingly lands herself in pursuit of the most dangerous religious sect (Sakigake) which was the reason behind her family and herself growing apart and thus, responsible for her reserved personality. She enters an alternate world described as 1Q84 which has two moons. At some point, Tengo enters this world as well. There’s a strong connection between the two which attracts them towards each other throughout. As it turns out, they had met in their childhood. The story unravels as they find each other and the other characters meet their purpose.

Our View

The vivid descriptions and attention to detail (sometimes uncanny) take the reader through the bleak outset of the world he creates. The other characters that revolve around the two are very well defined and unique to their personalities.

Confused? Well, that’s Murakami for you. He’s too smart and well established to let the book take a stand on things; they are ambiguous and dreamlike at best.

The narrative has magical realism written all over it. If anything, you feel disoriented long before you turn the last page and that’s where Murakami thrives. The plot is considerably complex and surely a commendable feat. Not trying to get ahead of ourselves, but Murakami just might become one of those writers who is vastly misunderstood, or unintelligible at least in his time and 1Q84 will play a big role in it.

 

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