Part 1 of 1Q84 by Murakami
He has done it again. Haruki Murakami, the Japanese literary sensation never lets me down. It’s probably weird to write a review when you haven’t finished the work you’re reviewing, but after finishing part one of this masterpiece I couldn’t hold it in any longer. This work is the ultimate reply to people who don’t enjoy reading (yes they exist). I’m pretty sure that once they get their hands on a Murakami novel, their opinion about novels will change drastically. His writing style is extremely clear and stylized at the same time. This means that the reading pace of a Murakami novel is quite high, but the experience is satisfying nonetheless. Readable and brilliantly literary at the same time, need I say more?
The novel narrates about Tengo, a math tutor and unpublished novelist, and Aomame, a martial arts instructor, physical therapist and a special kind of contract killer. Both extremely lonely and disappointed in life, the protagonists get involved in all kinds of mysterious happenings involving a religious cult. At first it seems that their stories are not intertwined, but slowly the reader discovers that their paths have crossed once, and that they are predetermined to cross again. Not only the main characters are interesting and mysterious, but also the numerous antagonists such as the young dyslexic Fukaeri, the editor Komatsu, the bodyguard Tamaru, the owner of a safety house for abused women Madame, and many more, are fascinating and described in such a way that it feels as if they really exist in flesh.
As always in Murakami’s work, the world in which the novel takes place is a world that comes really close to our own world, but differs from it on a surrealistic level. Magical realism is not something Murakami shies away from. This adds something to his thrilling mystery novel which is lacking in the more commercial attempts in this genre. There are so many layers in this novel and so many cultural references that it could only have been written by an extremely talented and intelligent novelist. 1Q84, the title of the novel – in analogy of Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 – refers to a parallel universe where there are two moons. As I said before, this universe doesn’t differ that much from the world as we know it, but it is a world where magical things are possible and everything just feels a bit out of order. Aomame, who came up with this term, enters this parallel dimension when she climbs down an emergency staircase in order to be on time for a killing job. This weird occurrence is preceded by an unusual taxi drive of which the Sinfonietta from Janáček is the soundtrack.
The literary reference I personally enjoyed most was the connection to Anton Chekhov, the Russian dramatist, physician and author who lived at the end of the 19th century. Tengo reads Chekhov’s story about the Sakhalin Island and its original inhabitants to Fukaeri which leaves a great impression on the girl. My interest in anthropology is part of why I enjoy Chekhov so much, but after considering this, probably also why I enjoy Murakami. His insight in his protagonist’s minds and their world surrounding them, plus the fact that he is a Japanese writer and I live in a small European country arouse an existential and cultural curiosity in me.
My love of romance is also satisfied because one of the leitmotivs of the novel is the epic love between Aomame and Tengo. Once, when they were kids, they shared an intense moment, but they haven’t seen each other since. Aomame has never given up on him and hopes to accidentally run into him one day. She doesn’t want to track him down, because that would ruin the experience of finding her true love by accidence. Such a meeting has not occurred yet in part 1, but since their stories get more complicated and more involved without them knowing it, I think this is about to change… (or so I hope).
I hope I have encouraged you to start reading this excellent and exiting novel of one of the best writers of our century. This being said, I can dive into part 2!
p.s. I know this wasn’t on my Awesome summer reading list, but I got the trilogy for my birthday from my sweet sweet friends and I just couldn’t postpone reading this!