2013 Challenges, Books, Quotes

Book 168: 1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

Murakami, Haruki - 1Q84It may have taken two weeks to read this book, but it was completely worth it. I don’t know the last time I’ve spent this much time basking in the beauty and wonderment of a novel. 1Q84 counts for my 2013 Mount TBR and Tea & Books challenges. Now on to my response, which is jumpy and hardly all-inclusive, but hopefully it portrays some of the wondrousness this novel is. Let’s just say I can’t wait to read more Murakami, regardless of if it’s a mind f*ck like Kafka on the Shore or like 1Q84, which is also technically a mind f*ck.

How does one even begin to classify Murakami. From the two books I’ve read the only things I can definitely say are that he defies genres and bucks trends, is incredibly well versed in classic literature and music and popular culture (films and music) and his descriptions are so vivid you don’t have to strive to imagine things because you see them completely formed in front of you. What I can appreciate is Murakami usually drops a line into his books which perfectly explain the books (so far, again I’ve only read two) and this books is (NOT A REAL SPOILER, but maybe skip the quote if you don’t want to know anything – the rest is okay though.),

“Even if it was hard to picture such a coincidence, Ushikawa’s intuition told him that this hypothesis felt more likely than the conspiracy theory. The two of them, driven by different motives, and approaching things from different angles, just happened to simultaneously shake Sakigake to the core. Two story lines at work, with different starting points but running parallel to each other.” (701)

Murakami takes genres and melds them seamlessly forcing the reader to either believe in what’s happening or completely reject what’s happening. The books are a lot easier to read and a hell of a lot more interesting if you believe it and suspend all sense of disbelief, especially in 1Q84.

I’m sure I missed so much, but what I took away was how brilliant (and convoluted) Murakami’s mind must be. The basic premise of the novel is that parallel worlds/universes exist, but they exist within the same physical space. In essence some people (the main characters being two of them) are living in one universe/world while the rest of the world continues on in the ‘regular’ world. And that us what I think makes this such a great novel, I mean it could actually be happening, but we don’t know about it! It also doesn’t hurt that Murakami is a master at character creation and simplicity.

One of the best parts of this novel is that even though it checks in at over 900 pages (925), there are very few characters. I could probably name all the characters now and of course there would be some I left off, but he is very consistent about not introducing many characters and I appreciated it and quite enjoyed it. And until the end, I found it easy to follow the stories and the time line of the main characters. Told from two perspectives for 80% of the book, Aomame’s and Tengo’s, Murakami added a third perspective, Ushikawa, and it was definitely needed, but it showed the relativeness of time and space.

It also didn’t hurt that the entire novel was about unrequited love and looking for your other half, and we all know I’m a sucker for those stories. There was also political/religious intrigue, death, wild parties, an assassin and a dowager among other things. The only thing that could’ve added to it would be a dragon, but those don’t need to be in every book. And thinking about it, there might’ve been mention of one.

Recommendation: DEFINITELY read it. Take your time and enjoy it. If possible read the three ‘books’ back to back (in America, they’ve released it in one book) or with nothing too serious in between, but they could stand alone.

Opening Line: “The taxi’s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast.”

Closing Line: “Until it was nothing more than a gray paper moon, hanging in the sky.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from 1Q84
“But utopias don’t exist, of course, anywhere in any world. Like alchemy or perpetual motion. What Takashima is doing, if you ask me, is making mindless robots. They take the circuits out of people’s brains that make it possible for them to think for themselves. Their world is like the one that George Orwell depicted in his novel. I’m sure you realize that there are plenty of people who are looking for exactly that kind of brain death. It makes life a lot easier. You don’t have to think about difficult things, just shut up and do what your superiors tell you to do. You never have to starve.” (121-122)

“The role of a story was, in the broadest terms, to transpose a single problem into another form. Depending on the nature and direction of the problem, a solution could be suggested in the narrative. Tengo would return to the real world with that suggestion in hand. It was like a piece of paper bearing the indecipherable text of a magic spell. At times it lacked coherence and served no immediate practical purpose. but it would contain a possibility. Someday he might be able to decipher the spell. That possibility would gently warm his heart from within.” (178)

“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.” (192)

“The world has two systems, ‘cap-i-tal-izum’ and ‘com-yoon-izum,’ that hate each other. Both systems, though, have big problems, so the world is generally moving in a direction that is not good. ‘Com-yoon-izum’ was originally an oustanding ideology with high ideals, but it was twisted out of shape by ‘self-serving politicians.'” (534)


30 thoughts on “Book 168: 1Q84 – Haruki Murakami”

  1. I love that it is so long. I really want to read it now, you have given me a good shunt in the right direction. Definitely will some time during 2013. Sooooo much to read! So little time.


  2. I really need to read more Murakami. I’m planning to join in a readalong of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle in April, so hopefully that will give me the momentum I need. I’ve had my eye on this one, too, which is actually so long that’s broken up into three separate books here! 🙂


        1. I know you can get them elsewhere, in the US they haven’t released a paperback yet, but it’s all one book 1100+ pages, but I can’t complain I got my copy of the book for volunteering at the library book sale 😀


      1. & The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is REALLY good. I re=read it last year and its even better on a second read, especially as I’m a little more knowledgeable about Murakami since reading it first.


    1. Me too! I was so afraid I wasn’t going to like this one after all the mixed (non-reader) reviews, but I did find this one easier and more intelligible than Kafka! I can’t wait to read Wind-up.


  3. I’ve been a little hesitant to read his works since I don’t know if I’m smart enough. But your enthusiastic endorsement is urging me to get over that.


    1. I think you’re plenty smart enough. As I said in my Kafka on the Shore response, I think there are probably a hundred different levels you can read his book. I would probably suggest starting with this one (of the two I’ve read), because there are a lot fewer Japanese tropes/archetypes than in Kafka, or at least I recognized a lot fewer so I didn’t have to think about them as much 🙂


    1. Definitely! I was a little disappointed in the ending at first because it seemed so simple, but the more I think about it the more I know it worked and fit perfectly.


  4. I love that you are so enthusiastic about something so mind-bendy! I read Underground earlier this month for the January in Japan reading challenge and it was nowhere near as fun as this sounds. 🙂


    1. I think you have to be enthusiastic about it! If you’re not you really do lose so much of the story. That and a good suspension of disbelief I think are what have made Murakami so approachable for me.


  5. I actually just checked this out of the library as part of an attempt to read more non-American authors, so I’m glad to hear you liked it so much! Hopefully I’ll enjoy it too 🙂


  6. I really want to read this one. I haven’t read any other Murkami’s but I’ve had this one on my shelf for a long time. I am relieved to know that there aren’t too many characters to keep track of. You know you are in trouble when you start a novel and there is a multi-page listing of all the characters 🙂


    1. I agree! I love epic fantasy series but trying to keep track of characters is impossible. With this novel there are probably fewer than 20 named characters and of those less than half are necessary to remember their names.


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