I love books by Haruki Murakami and I owned all of them, but that doesn’t mean I have read all of them. I love seeing all of them on my bookshelf and anybody who is lucky enough to step into my Literary Cave and proceeds to give a shout of eager astonishment on seeing the Murakami catalogue, I usually consider him or her ‘family’.
1Q84, a humongous tome of a book, I have yet to touch. However, all that changed early this year, when a teenaged daughter of my friend visited me and her eyes lighted up like stars as she ran her fingers over the spine of the hardcover. A barrage of outstanding adjectives flowed out but I only remembered very clearly one sentence: “I finished it in one week.” How did she do it? The page count is 925, words printed in really small font. Her spirited exaltation was the impetus I needed to begin reading the thickest book I have ever read.
This is a world only Murakami can create. This is his magnum-opus. He writes it with such focused surrealism and authority that the languorous plot lulls me into a world with two moons, where Little People come out of dead goats, pubic hairs actually have meaning, an angry spirit will pound the door commanding the occupant to pay up his/her TV fees and taxi-drivers talk and know more than they should. This is one humongous smorgasbord of genres. Murakami side-steps and free-styles from surrealistic fantasy to sci-fi (I did say there are two moons right?), time travel, star-crossed romance, weird sex, investigative procedural, family drama and serial killer modes.
The story alternates between two characters – Aomame and Tengo. Their bond is teased and hinted at early on. Trust Murakami to build up the narrative and forestall explaining it for as long as he possibly can. Lots of other off-kilter characters will intersect with them. The weirdest will have to be a girl named Fuka-Eri who has nicely shaped breasts, speaks in an uninflected way and never punctuates her questions with a question mark. Then there is the short ugly man with a misshapen head named Ushikawa, whose deductive mind feels like a super-power.
Murakami is particularly very indulgent with 1Q84. He over-describes his characters till the point you will want to pull your hair out. You will learn a lot about Tengo’s pajamas and what Aomame’s taste in music is like and the food she eats to avoid constipation. Murakami will frequently digress into unusual territory. There is one I particularly like which is his love for Mathematics and how it works. The week I read that, I shared with all the students in my Math classes:
“Math is like water. It has a lot of difficult theories, of course, but its basic logic is very simple. Just as water flows from high to low over the shortest possible distance, figures can only flow in one direction. You just have to keep your eye on them for the route to reveal itself. That’s all it takes. You don’t have to do a thing. Just concentrate your attention and keep your eyes open, and the figures make everything clear to you. In this whole, wide world, the only thing that treats me so kindly is math.”
I know 1Q84 will invite lots of criticisms like how not all the loose-ends are tied up in a nice bow and how Murakami seems to enjoy inventorying everything that doesn’t help with the plot. However, I adore how his wild narrative will snowball into something truly magical and half the time it is impossible to pigeonhole the narrative. I was totally immersed into the deadly whimsical world he has created. However, I wouldn’t recommend this to readers new to Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood would be a better alternative.