1Q84- Haruki Murakami

1Q84 (Books One and Two) –Haruki Murakami

The latest three volume offering by esteemed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami – Kafka On The Shore, Norwegian Wood and Dance, Dance, Dance– is a hefty tome with the first two weighing in at six hundred and twenty three pages whilst the third, only available as a separate book, is a further three hundred pages of reading. It is certainly a novel of gargantuan proportions and ambitions but Murakami deploys every device at his disposal in maintaining tension and sustaining the reader’s interest throughout its duration. In fact I can only truthfully say this applies to the first two books as I have yet to read the third although admittedly my appetite has been thoroughly whetted in discovering what happens to the two central protagonists –Aoname and Tengo- who drive the two separate narratives which have become inextricably linked in the climactic chapters of the first two volumes. Very loosely based on the totalitarian themes espoused by George Orwell in his landmark 1984(Q has much the same sound as 9 in Murakami’s native Japanese) with the ever watching Big Brother replaced by the even more sinister and  ever present omniscient ‘little people’.

Beginning with Aoname exiting a Tokyo expressway, mid-journey, via an emergency exit she finds herself in the alternate universe 1Q84 where events are slightly askew and the presence of two moons further complicate matters. Acting as an assassin-to ‘deserving’ victims- she finds herself caught up in a sequence of events, relationships and situations which place those around her in a perpetual state of danger if the wrong decisions are made and actions carried out. Tengo-with whom Aoname shared a brief moment of affinity nearly twenty years previously- meanwhile is a teacher with a side line in writing who becomes involved in a ruse to deceive the literary world by assisting a 17 year old girl-Fuka Eri- in translating and rewriting her highly original tale involving the aforementioned little people and the mysterious Air Chrysalis. Becoming involved in this deceit however opens a whole can of worms which continues to draw both his and Aoname’s stories and separate worlds closer together. The idea of a parallel or alternate world is a device that Murakami often draws on in his fiction to add a sense of detachment and other worldliness and a further sense of separateness is attained as he narrates the intertwining stories in the third person thus perpetuating the distance between the couple and himself from the narrative flow.

1Q84 is indeed a brave undertaking by Murakami and in the main it is a successful one. The distance that the third person narrative brings to the proceedings is perhaps its only major flaw as it lends the book a chill that is in contrast to his previous works wherein the reader is drawn into the mind of the first person narrator. Removing this facet the warmth that usually pervades his work is sadly missing and the reader may find it less easy to empathise with the characters as they are not so readily included in their thoughts and internal outpourings. This aside it is still a vast and compelling achievement and as stated before my appetite is thoroughly whetted to discover what the inevitably unpredictable outcome is for the central characters in the concluding book.

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