Haruki Murakami does a great job of describing a world that is just a bit different from the normal world. Of course, being an American I have no real knowledge of Japanese history. He mentions wars and battles that I have never heard of, but I don’t know if these are things that happened here or there and I don’t suppose it matters. There are a handful of altered events that impact the story and these are gone over in some detail.
I know nothing about the Japanese countryside or life in Tokyo, but the events feel as if they could have happened anywhere. Well, except for a couple of NHK fee collectors. A freeway plays a crucial role in the story, as does a small park with a slide and a clear view of the night sky. Our two heroes get into trouble when they collide with forces beyond their understanding. Such as NHK fee collectors.
One of the funny bits is the fact that a novella in the story becomes a bestseller. The fact that it is short and easy to read seems to be part of its appeal. At another point, however, we are told that books like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past can only be read while one is imprisoned. It is clear that Haruki Murakami follows Proust’s path more closely than that of Air Chrysalis, the short novel embedded in this much longer novel. He also is a fan of Chekhov and The Beatles.
Book Three is the hardest to get through. Not only has fatigue set in from watching these dull and boring people do dull and boring things, but the plot still plods along at a snail’s pace. We are told every detail about these peoples lives, as if it really matters what brand of cigarette they smoke or what ingredients they put in a salad. Then there is the mondo annoying way our heroes talk. Maza and Dohta are used instead of Mother and Daughter in reference to people created by The Little People. Or maybe not created by The Little People. We never learn anything about these magical beings. At the same time, one of our main character’s is pregnant and refers to her unborn child as Little One. Does this mean she thinks it’s one of the aliens? Or faeries? Or whatever?
1Q84 was brilliant in a few spots, but just baffling in others. One of the plot elements near the end has two characters looking for each other, one of them is in hiding, but the other is living his life. Everyone can find his phone number, his work number, or track him down…except for the woman who has been looking for him for twenty years.
I listened to the audio book and came close to giving up on it a couple of times. 1Q84 really wanted to be Art and Literature. It didn’t quite make the cut for me. This is a book where reading the Cliffnotes version would be a brilliant idea.