Thoughts on: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

November 20, 2011

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is a fictional novel which takes place between two worlds. The book was originally written in Japanese and became a best seller almost immediately.

  • 944 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0307593312

Thoughts on: 1Q84 by Haruki MurakamiMy rating for 1Q845

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami is not a complex novel, but it is long. The book asks an important question “what is reality”?

I’ve worked with many marketing people over the years, the one important lesson they have taught me is the “perception is everything, reality is nothing”. At first, my structured mind that sees the world in 0s and 1s couldn’t comprehend what they were saying. However, with a little bit of contemplation I came to realize that they were right.

After all, we live in a fake world. The news we watch are fake, the food we eat is fake (that’s why many immigrants have their own food stores), the promises made to us by our leaders and captains of industry are hollow and broken almost without delay.

Mr. Murakami starts off the novel with lines from song “It’s Only a Paper Moon” written by E. Y. Harburg and Billy Rose (below in Ella Fitzgerald’s wonderful adaptation), an appropriate selection which sets up the novel and is even more meaningful at the end:
It’s a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me.”

Murakami points out that one’s perspective often determines what reality is for them, whether or not it is reality for others – I think he’s right. The author points out that the year 1984 no longer exists, it is not a parallel universe or or another world:

“For you and for me, the only time that exists anymore is this year of 1Q84”

The novel intertwines two narratives, Aomame who is a full-time trainer/ part-time assassin and Tengo, a math teacher and novelist. Aomame and Tengo, whose stories eventually join, see the world in a parallel universe, each one with its own minor differences (police uniforms for example) but they continue to live with those who are in their own world.

The small distinctions make all the difference to Aomame and Tengo in pursuing their meaning & their personal quests.

However, the real strength of the book is the epic structure in which it is written in and the references to literature, worldwide and Japanese, and historical events which I found amusing. I only wish the translators (Jay Rubin & Philip Gabriel, who did an excellent job by the way) would have been kind enough to put in some footnotes about the cultural aspects of the book to put it in perspective to those who are not up to date on cultural details as Mr. Murakami is.
But that is my complaint on most translated books.

The wonderful thing about 1Q84 is that it is clear that Murakami is having fun with his comments on classical authors and narrative:

“According to Chekhov … once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired.”

And refutes himself a few hundred pages down the storyline.

“That’s fine.… Nothing could be better than not firing it.”

At its heart, 1Q84 is actually quite a traditional tale, a boy meets girl story in which love triumphs over all. The book is a tad too long, the plot is a bit too convenient at times and not as tight as it could be but that’s not a sin and worst things could happen to you than reading a few extra pages written by Murakami. However 1Q84 has managed to reframe the world – and isn’t that what literature is all about?

So tell me, do you think we live in a fake world?

Aomame, a young assassin on her way to practice her profession, steps out of a taxi cap and started noticing small but significant differences in the world around her. Aomame realizes that she entered a parallel universe which she calls 1Q84.

At the same time Tengo, an aspiring author, takes on a ghostwriting project and becomes so wrapped up with the work and its author when he starts noticing that his world has become unraveled.

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Zohar – Man of la Book
Disclaimer: I bought this book
Article first published as Book Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami on Blogcritics.

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  • JonathanWilhoitNovember 20, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Great review! And boy, is that thing is a tome! I always like to see foreign works translated into English, but one of the problems (I find, and like you mentioned) is that a lot of the cultural nuances of the book are lost on non-native-speaking audiences. Your suggestion for your footnotes on those types of things is a good one!

    If you get a chance, please check out my own book review blog, If you don’t get a chance, no worries. I’m just happy to have found another great reviewer. I’ll be following from now on!

  • HarveeNovember 20, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I like your emphasis on the fake world and Murakami’s frequent reference to literary figures like Chekov. I only wonder if he used a fake world/alternate world so he could bring up some of the social issues he did in the novel – abuse of women and children by men who hold power, such as the cult leader, etc. He could always say it was only make believe.

    • zoharNovember 20, 2011 at 2:07 pm

      I guess that could be said about any novel. I’ve seen several of these who tried to fictionalize true events, didn’t work too well.

  • AthsNovember 20, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I love how Murakami’s books address the reality vs perception question. It’s something I am very interested in, though I mostly read about that topic in psychological fiction/nonfiction. I’m looking forward to reading this book!

  • Debnance at readerbuzzNovember 27, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Will this book never arrive at my public library? I wait and wait.

    Thank you for the review.

  • Handmade JewelryApril 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I’m just a big fan of Murakami and this is obviously considered one of his best novels, right there with works like The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Like all those works, browsing the novel felt like gradually sinking into a well of dreams, and being surrounded in a mood of curiosity and off hand beauty/absurdity.

    So generally, if you love his novels much like me, this is a must read and a good time : If you’ve never read him, you might like to begin with something shorter like Hard Boiled Wonderland.

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