At around 1,000 pages and three volumes, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 is more of an ~experience~ than just a mere book. After about a month of on-and-off reading, I am happy to announce that I have finally finished the strange novel. While it did take a long time to read, it was never boring and always engaging and exciting.
Goodreads Summary of 1Q84:
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.
A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers
This is the second Murakami novel I’ve read (the first being Norwegian Wood), and I understand why most people don’t recommend starting with 1Q84. Murakami’s writing is definitely unique and his characters and descriptions are never typical. 1Q84 is a book that features parallel worlds (with two moons), cat towns, reincarnation, “little people” that emerge from the mouth of a dead goat, and oppressive religious and political cults. Though I am still thoroughly confused after finishing the book, I’ve realized that the main themes of 1Q84 are actually quite basic—like Orwell’s 1984, the novel criticizes oppression, specifically that of its fictional religious cults. And, overall, 1Q84 can simply be seen as a surreal, dystopian, 1000-page love story. Murakami frequently quotes Ella Fitzgerald’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon” (Say, its only a paper moon/Sailing over a cardboard sea/ But it wouldn’t be make-believe/If you believed in me), and I find that quote summarizes the message of his strange story; that love is what makes any experience real, even when one is living in a parallel world with two moons.
Reading 1Q84 made me wish I could understand Japanese in order to read the original version. Apparently, a large portion of the novel’s meaning is lost in translation, and I did feel there was something missing in the English version. Murakami’s writing style is blunt and to the point. His descriptions of sexual encounters are frequent and at times bewildering—well, truly his descriptions of anything can be seen as bewildering.
Overall, 1Q84 is a long, strange, and confusing journey with a simple message. I thought it was exciting and never a chore to read, though its plot rarely made much sense.