Book Reviews 1q84

Published on October 23rd, 2012 | by Michaela Buckley


1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

I’ve only heard great things about Haruki Murakami and really wanted to read some of his works, but unfortunately there’s so many well received books I didn’t know where to start. When that happens I usually choose the most recent work, which is what I did.

1Q84 is a novel with 3 volumes, basically a trilogy, and is over 1000 pages in total, the plot revolves around 2 seemingly unrelated characters in 1984 and is a romantic epic with Magic Realism elements.

So it was certainly not the easiest way to get into Murakami, especially considering I read Kafka’s Metamorphosis and The Trial in preparation.
There were certainly parallels within the work to the surrealism of Kafka, both authors employ a strange and uneasy nonchalance which works really well in the magic realism genre, however both are entirely different in essence as Murakami’s writing is clearly as Eastern as Kafka is Western.

The writing does feel translated, with the Japanese language being very direct, which always contrasts heavily with the metaphysical content that Japanese writers are known to use and also there are many instances where there are odd sentencing and words used slightly out of context. A lot of this adds to the experience, making the very page feel very foreign and unknown.

The story is complemented by themes, a religious organisation with secrets that are pulling together childhood acquaintances Aomame & Tengo, an alternate world where there are 2 moons and small people who are spiritually connecting everyone. It’s all quite odd, however the story is fashioned in an honest way, with much thought and depth. It’s surprising how  Murakami is able to tell a story from a 3rd person perspective and so convincingly involve you with the 2 main characters and their world view, developing and thinking as they do. The novel is very character-centric, the main drive is the feelings of the pair as the world is changing around them, the question of destiny lingering above everyone like the sword of Damocles.

The book features 2 moons in the alternate world of 1Q84.

It’s a fresh take on the Magic Realism genre, much more surreal and thematic than other titles I have read. The Magic Realism genre is almost entirely Spanish written and it is uncommon to find such a piece from a Japanese writer. If you haven’t tried a Magic Realism, 1Q84 is the best way start, it is not too complex or too vague, which is the most common problem with the genre and if you love Japanese novels than it’s one of the most fulfilling I have read.

Pacing throughout the book is superb, despite its length I was never bored and in fact was always eager to read on, the chapters alternate between the 2 main characters, so this helps to structure the plot better. I can’t help but feel it was quite hastily tied up, if you are looking for answers to all the questions, you won’t get them.

The series raises many questions about the way people lead their lives and the consequences of their actions, it alludes to a grand design and feels speculative and sincere, which is prevalent in most Japanese writing. The book features many references to pop culture like 1984, and it’s clear where Murakami’s influences lie. One of the characters in the book was left a large amount of time and so started reading “In Search of Lost Time” and also listened to Janáček’s Sinfonietta, I have felt renewed inspiration to read Proust after this book, but maybe not for another few years!

A brilliant example of modern fiction and an easygoing read.

Quite glad I didn’t see this before I read the book.

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