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Looking back to 1984, and to, um, that other year . . .

March 28, 2013 by Reader's Connection


Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (©2011) is a historical novel, set in 1984. But some of the characters realize that they’ve slipped into some other sort of year, which one of them calls 1Q84. The Q is for question mark. You know that something has changed when you look up and see two moons.

One was the moon that had always been there, and the other was a far smaller, greenish moon, somewhat lopsided in shape, and much less bright. It looked like a poor, ugly, distantly related child that had been foisted on the family by unfortunate events and was welcomed by no  one.

Tokyo residents Aomame and Tengo wander into this parallel-universe year by separate paths. Aomame is the first to realize that something is amiss, and she goes to the library to do historical research, trying to determine when the aberrations of 1Q84 began to appear.

No especially major events had occurred in the early autumn of 1981. Charles and Diana had married that July, and the aftereffects were still in evidence–reports on where they went, what they did, what she wore, what her accessories were like. Aomame of course knew about the wedding, but she had no particular interest in it, and she could not figure out why people were so deeply concerned about the fate of an English prince and princess. Charles looked less like a prince than a high school physics teacher with stomach trouble.


1Q84 book trailer

I’m on page 844 out of 925. There’s a detective so unattractive that he can’t be inconspicuous, a bestselling author who didn’t exactly write the book, a dowager who loves butterflies and rough justice, a couple of religious cults, a supernaturally obsessive collector for the NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai, official English name: Japan Broadcasting Corporation), and some paranormal sex, as well as the other kind. If there is another kind. The translated-from-Japanese prose, dry as it may sometimes seem, keeps me hooked, and some of the human situations–Tengo’s dealings with his dying father, for example–are enhanced rather than diminished by the fantasy threads.

1Q84 on CD

1Q84 is also available as a downloadable e-book, as an audiobook on CD (don’t be scared away by the 38 discs) in a Chinese-language print version, and as a white object you’ve never seen before, nearly five feet in length, with smooth, beautiful curves. If there’s a tear in this last version, and you haven’t already read the book, you won’t know whether it’s a good idea to open that tear and see what’s inside.



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