1Q84

I listened to 38 discs of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. This is the third book of his I have listened to and this story contained many of the same elements as his other books – magical realism/surrealism – leaving one reality to enter another one that leaves us slightly off kilter…cats…an examination of consciousness and time and memory. This book contains a story within a story. The inside story is proposed as a book of fantasy that an editor and a writer try to appropriate for their own benefit…one for money the other for what it gives him as a writer…but they end up being appropriated by the story itself which reveals itself to be true but possibly only in one dimension of realty. In the end we don’t know exactly where this dimension begins and ends, but it feels plausible that the main characters went into it and came back out of it again. It is very Alice in Wonderland like. The main character goes down the rabbit hole and finds herself in a set of circumstances subtly different than what she knows, but different enough to make her question what is going on. Everything isn’t different, but the things that are lead her down a path that takes her to her one true love.

 

At its core this is a love story between Aomame and Tengo who are now both 30 but knew each other as children. An event when they were 10 years old remained in the memory and hearts as they grew older. Though Aomame’s family moved away and they had not seen each other for twenty years, they each yearned in their separate ways for a truth they had experienced earlier. A very interesting (and much shorter) novel could have been written about this love story without the surrealistic story created for 1Q84. The use of an alternative dimension to support the quest of Aomame and Tengo to find each other is almost decoration, rather than substance. At times I was annoyed with it and other times I was charmed by it. I kept hanging on trying to understand it, to grasp what I thought Murakami might be trying to say or at least get us to think about. It certainly provided the opportunity to consider themes common to many of his books such as time, memory, consciousness, ethical ambiguity, children at the mercy of overbearing parents and cats. As in his other books, discussion of Western culture is sprinkled throughout – classical music, movies and Carl Jung. It was hard not to think of the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, and Tengo alluded to Macbeth more than once. The setting in 1984 means relying on technology of that time and the plot is constrained by this feature. (Many times I thought…if only they had the internet or cell phones this wouldn’t be a problem.) There is so much discussion of the NHK (Japan’s television channel) and collectors of the monthly subscription fee, I was wondering what bad experience Murakami had with them get such a prominently unattractive role in this book.

 

There is something in Murakami’s style that makes me feel like I am in the almost dream world he describes while I am listening to it. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but it pulls me in, even when I’m feeling uncomfortable with the action or the fantasy seems to be too much. I worried that I would be let down by the ending, but I liked the ending and thought the book was thought-provoking and entertaining and I have not quite shaken 1Q84 out of my consciousness.

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