1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Posted on October 4, 2019
It’s been a few months since I finished 1Q84. I read this 1,000 page behemoth on my Kindle, so I never had to lug around the true weight of this dense novel. But you can’t read Murakami and not feel the weight of his stories in your heart, nonetheless.
I read my first Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore, a few years ago when I was an undergrad. I was drawn in by the title because it had ‘Kafka’ in it, one of my favorite authors. I had never heard of Haruki Murakami, this apparently influential and prolific Japanese author. I did some research. Like Kafka, his work is also described as surrealistic and dreamlike. In fact, in the literary world, Murakami is considered one of the pioneers of magical realism (now one of my favorite genres). Magical realism is a type of fiction that is set in a realistic world, yet imbued with magical elements. In these types of novels, we have to suspend our disbelief. The authors don’t try to convince us to believe in the unbelievable; that isn’t their job. Instead, they ask the reader to reserve judgment – to go into this fictional world believing in nothing and everything. Ready for the unknown.
At its heart, 1Q84 is a love story within that unknown. I fell in love with our two main characters, Tengo and Aomame. Tengo – the reserved, talented, and hardworking novelist. Aomame – the badass, mysterious assassin who carries an emptiness inside of her. I fell even more in love with the intriguing story that slowly weaves together their paralleled lives. I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say it involves a creepy, mystical cult, mysterious disappearances, a fateful encounter, air chrysalises, and enough magic to make you question what’s real.
Critics of this book would probably describe it as overly long, misogynistic at times, boring, and filled with tedious, meticulous description. They’re not wrong. A lot of the novel is repetitive, with paragraphs that could be omitted and not affect the story. But Murakami lovers relish in the way he describes the details. How he makes us believe that nothing is so small as to be unimportant in the grand scheme of things. And that is what gives his stories power.
1Q84 makes me think of the ancient Greek myth of soulmates. Plato explains below:
“Humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.”
This book’s body is severed into two halves – Tengo and Aomame. They both long to become whole again, and their journey to find each other is wonderfully mysterious, unnerving, sensual, and full of tension.
This book isn’t for everyone. Reading 1Q84 takes time and effort. Dedication, even. It’s not a perfect novel, but it is unforgettable. If you read the first couple of pages and find yourself being transported into its world, then the read will be exciting and worthwhile.