People’s general reactions to Muramaki’s novel were two: 1: This is a huge book (yes, Murakami indeed overdid it by writing 900+ pages) and 2: I thought 1984 was written by Orwell. Let me start by the first question and for the first time by something negative. Indeed 1Q84 could have been a lot shorter. Murakami spends a lot of pages repeating and explaining stuff he already said and explained. At points I felt underestimated as if I am this shallow reader, who constantly needs to be reminded about the sequence of events. In his defense, Book 3 was originally published separately from Book 1 and 2 and within nearly a year time span, so I guess it was somewhat necessary. However, when you read Books 1, 2, and 3 one after the other, you sincerely get outraged at this constant repetition.
1Q84 is a play of words as in Japanese 9 and Q are written with the same symbol. 1Q84 is also a reference to Orwell’s famous dystopian novel. The characters in the novel find themselves living in a parallel world, a world where two moons co-exist, where the Little People create air chrysalis and speak through it to the receivers, where there are a dohta and a maza. Yes, you wouldn’t understand a word I am saying, but explaining it would ruin the whole novel. And as repeated constantly throughout 1Q84: If you don’t understand it without an explanation, you wouldn’t understand it with an explanation.
The year is 1984 (not for a long time) and the city is Tokyo. Aomame is a 30-years-old woman, who seems to be living quite an ordinary life – she is a fitness instructor by day and a sexually active hunter by night. Only two people know of her secret life – Aomame is a killer. She eliminates men, who abuse women. On the way to her next assignment, Aomame takes a wrong step (or rather a wrong staircase) and the world she believed she lived in changes completely.
Tengo indeed lives an ordinary life. He is a math teacher, who writes novels in his spare time. When his extravagant editor Komatsu suggests that Tengo rewrite the promising novel of a 17-year-old girl, Tengo doesn’t suspect that this is going to turn his world upside down. Fuka Eri is a mysterious girl, whose first (and only) novel Air Chrysalis tells THE fantastical story of THE Little People, who affect the world’s direction in mysterious ways. At first to Tengo,this story is nothing more than a girl’s rich imagination. However, similar to Aomame, he starts noticing weird things around him.
Murakami quite extensively focuses on religious cults. One of them, to which Aomame’s parents belong, believes in the destitution of the human body as a way to reach God. Its followers refuse even blood transmission, as it is a unnatural intervention into what God created and destroyed.
The second one is a more mysterious cult. Sagikake looks like a commune, where people disillusioned by capitalist society have retreated to grow their own food and to live in harmony and peace. As Fuka Eri’s Air Chrysalis becomes popular, both Tengo and Aomame start feeling that it might be describing events in the cult. And both of them become unnaceptable to Sagikake.
The story in Book 1 and 2 alternates between Aomame and Tengo, but in Book 3 Murakami brings some fresh air and a new perspective in the character of Ushikawa, an investigator hired by Sagikake to track down Tengo and Aomame. His reflections, along with Tengo’s and Aomame’ help create a clear picture of the changing world and of the role the cult, the Little People, Air Chrysalis and even Tengo and Aomame play in it.
Tengo and Aomame’s paths intertwine as they become closer to closer to realizing that they might be in this world just to meet again. They have shared a special bond as children but 1984 doesn’t allow them to reunite. Both of them start believing that this special place with two moons exists for them and because of them.
1Q84 is entertaining and obsessing as you scroll through the lines to uncover the mystery of the Air Chrysalis and The Little People and to see Aomame and Tengo reunited. As I reader, I felt I am walking slowly next to them, patiently waiting for that perfect moment to meet.
More on Murakami: South of the Border, West of the Sun