Magic realism, magic dualism: Murakami’s 1Q84

1q84-coverMurakami has flawless intuition when it comes to mixing fantasy with reality to make both elements shine, and IQ84 (as with so many of his works) seems like the best sort of lucid dream.

The novel begins in 1984, in Tokyo, but we don’t stay there for long. With one wayward shortcut, our protagonists Aomame and Tengo shift to a not-quite-parallel world: 1Q84.

One of the defining characteristics of this world is a second moon – a little green companion to the the familiar one of our world, and with this detail Murakami introduces us to a novel of dualities; two moons, two characters, two worlds; the balance between male and female, reality and absurdity, creator and creation, past and future, destined and decided. Everything in the novel is connected by vague tangents, and Murakami skillfully weaves a web within the novel that winds back in on itself. What is real, and what is a manipulation?

Murakami’s works often nod towards fairy tales, and in this one he introduces us to the Little People – the secret, creepy puppeteers behind the curtain of 1Q84. They have the ability to spin an “air chrysalis” and replicate any person they choose, creating an almost perfect copy. You can imagine how this complicates things: there’s almost no way to differentiate between the dohta, the copy, and the maza, the original, creating a shell game of epic proportions. It’s a puzzle to bend your brain in half, and then some – but I loved every minute of it. Watching the narrative threads come together and tangle is like listening to a symphony, and trusting the conductor to bring every instrument to the swelling climax you hope to hear.

I always dive into Murakami’s work with a sigh of relief; the change in pace between fiction written in Japanese and fiction written in English is absolutely refreshing. Things are slowed down and explored in detail, from train-station schedules to folding laundry to killing the leader of a cult.

I only have one issue with the novel: with so many threads to pick up and keep going, some get dropped at the end. Knowing Murakami’s purposefully mysterious style, there’s a distinct possibility that those threads were dropped on purpose. (This doesn’t mean I have to like it.)

The verdict? This novel is definitely worth picking up – just make sure you set aside a generous chunk of time to devote to this massive volume. If 924 pages sounds like a couple hundred too many, I’d recommend trying Murakami’s shorter work to test the waters and see if you have patience for the rambling (if delicious) prose that comes with the territory.

Hop over to Abe Books (your favourite global conglomerate of independent bookstores) to find a copy of your very own – just make sure you get an English edition (since Murakami has been translated into an insane number of languages) and the complete novel – some editions are split into two are three volumes. You can also visit The Cascade to read my original review (and check out some of their other book reviews while you’re there, if you’re so inclined).

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