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{Review} 1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

According to one reviewer, “Murakami’s creations defy traditional classifications, breaking down numerous barriers”. In the midst of all the 1Q84 hype, that didn’t sound too good. Surely it just meant that Murakami was over-extending himself, trying to hammer out an artificially extended story with a plot thinner than a folded sheet of metal in a Samurai sword. (Excuse the metaphor).

A quick glance at the three weighty tomes that comprise the series could confirm that belief.

So why did I start reading 1Q84? Well, because I was inadvertently guilt-tripped into it by some very cringe-worthy English-speakers I over-heard at the local café/ English book-store. (I go there because they have the 2nd best selection of tea, cake and hot-chocolate in Aix and the nicest atmosphere in the city).

I can’t face typing the conversation out, but I can reveal that (according to them) James Orwell’s 1983 inspired Murakami to write to write 1Q84. That the ‘Q’ in the title symbolizes the amount of quotations from 1983 in the text and the Murakami himself translated ichi-kew-hachi-yon into English.

I can also reveal that several people were stunned into staring at the couple who were having this conversation and that I felt so sorry for the book that I wanted to go and read it and tell it that all was well in the world.

Blurb (From Goodreads)
The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.

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.

Review: Because of the large volume of… volumes this review is going to cover, the ‘review’ layout is going to get shaken up a little with one section for each of the three points that stood out most about the book.

Women: The general vibe friends have given is that Murakami’s female protagonists are either a) humorous characters that are ‘present in the here and now’ or b) serious and incapable of relating to ‘real’ people except for the main male character. According to this interview, that’s what Murakami aims to do.
But are all his female characters that under-developed? I’d argue that, no, they aren’t: the Dowager is a believable character. Filled with rage and loathing for men who abuse their partners (her daughter was driven to suicide by her violent husband), she rescues every woman she can from similar situations to try to erase her feelings of guilt. Her strength of will and character development are firmly established from the start and change realistically.
Aomame’s character does fall into the latter category to some degree as except for her love of Tengo and quiet contempt for those she removes, she’s not emotionally present (in the traditional sense) for most of the novel. Nonetheless, there is something about her carefully cultivated persona that intrigued me and had me mentally high-fiving her throughout the story.
Fuka-Eri did not appear to fall into either category (although feel free to debate me on this point!). Instead she, like Tsubasa felt like broken vessels who were held together by magic superglue and a story arc that alternated between agonisingly intense and then… not there. This was especially true in Tsubasa’s case. Indeed it was her story (and the Dowager’s) that made me take such a long break before I felt mentally prepared to tackle Book 2.

Sex: Yes, this element does come before ‘plot’. From the moment that Tengo’s eyes were drawn towards Fuka-Eri’s bosom, “as if toward the centre of a great whirlpool”, I suspected that Murakami’s take on physical… contact would play a large part in my review.
Every one of Tengo’s sex ‘scenes’ made me cringe as they felt awkward. Bear in mind that I’m a fairly stereotypical English person, so when I say that these scenes felt awkward, I mean that they made me shrink with embarrassment.
At least Aomame did not go through the same awkward scenes. Also, kudos to Murakami for creating a woman who was comfortable with her sexuality and not sticking a label on her.

Plot: I’ve heard that Murakami can be hit and miss, but this plot felt fresh and the story arcs and subplots were deftly done. Several parts, such as the Little People left me scratching my head afterwards. This not a criticism of 1Q84, that’s just me being my usual, ‘I only like surreal elements I can understand’ -self.
I was amazed by the ease with which Murakami combined different elements from traditional plots without losing the story. There was a dystopian setting, romance, detective and 007 elements in addition to references to literature, philosophy and popular culture.

Overall
1Q84 does indeed defy simple classification; there are so many different elements and nods to other books that enrich the story (as opposed to feeling precariously balanced in it).
Murakami is now on my radar and he’s not going to slip off it. 🙂

WNI’s Verdict? WIN!

Read more: Takashi Murakami Biography – life, childhood, children, young, old, information, born, movie, tall, house http://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Li-Ou/Murakami-Takashi.html#ixzz1xZmGVAH7

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3 Comments

Posted by on June 13, 2012 in 2012 Book Challenges, Books

 

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WWW Wednesday Reads – 28th March 2012

WWW Wednesday, as hosted by shouldbereading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Plus tard, tu comprendras, [you’ll understand later] by Jérome Clément as my bed-time book. It is all about a man who’s going through his recently-deceased mother’s belongings and finds lots of papers detailing what happened to her parents during WWII. It sounds dry maybe, but I find it fascinating and movingly written.

My second book is Chanter la langue d’oc en Provence à la fin du XXe siècle, [singing in Occitan in Provence at the end of the 20th century] by Elisabeth Cestor. I’m really cheesed off with myself for not finding this book sooner as it supports some parts of my dissertation that I’d been unable to support before. I now have to re-write the bones of my literature review.

I’m also reading Lost Tales of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky as slowly as I can because I don’t want to finish the series.

What did you recently finish reading?
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: I finished the 1st book yesterday but can’t quite face reading the sequels yet because the content is quite challenging and keeps making me weep.

I finally finished reading Sienkiewicz’s Les Chevaliers Teutoniques after over two weeks!

 

What do you think you’ll read next?
As soon as I’ve finished the books I’m on (and have read L’Amant for class), I’m going to start to focus on reading articles from back copies of the Languages magazines that I have subscriptions for. I need to get this Literature Review re-written DX

 

 

What are you reading? Or hoping to read? Any reading woes or wins recently?
Feel free to comment and say! 🙂

 
9 Comments

Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Books

 

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WWW Wednesday reads

WWW Wednesday, as hosted by shouldbereading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. As the only English-language version I could find was an e-book, I feel quite twitchy. There’s something about being told I’m 12% of the way through 21,994 pages that scares me.

 I’m just finishing The Arabian Nights (Lang’s translation). The interweaving of all the stories is genius.
What did you recently finish reading?
Cahier d’un retour au pays natal by Aimé Césaire. Expect a review soon!

 
What do you think you’ll read next?
I think I’ve got enough reading to do for the moment, but I’ve just bought the most beautiful copy of Le Tour du monde en 80 jours  I’m going to start that one as my ‘Foreign Language Bed-time Book’ as soon as I’ve finished the my book on the Teutonic Knights.

What are you reading? Or hoping to read? Any reading woes or wins recently? Feel free to comment and say! 🙂

 
17 Comments

Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Books

 

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