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Cover of Book 1
|Genre||Alternate history, parallel worlds|
|May 29, 2009 (Books 1 and 2)|
April 16, 2010 (Book 3)
Published in English
|October 25, 2011|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
1Q84 (, Ichi-Ky?-Hachi-Yon) is a dystopian novel written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, first published in three volumes in Japan in 2009-10. It covers a fictionalized year of 1984 in parallel with a "real" one. The novel is a story of how a woman named Aomame begins to notice strange changes occurring in the world. She is quickly caught up in a plot involving Sakigake, a religious cult, and her childhood love, Tengo, and embarks on a journey to discover what is "real". Its first printing sold out on the day it was released and sales reached a million within a month. The English-language edition of all three volumes, with the first two volumes translated by Jay Rubin and the third by Philip Gabriel, was released in North America and the United Kingdom on October 25, 2011. An excerpt from the novel, "Town of Cats", appeared in the September 5, 2011 issue of The New Yorker magazine. The first chapter of 1Q84 had also been read as an excerpt in the Selected Shorts series at Symphony Space in New York.
The novel was originally published in Japan in three hardcover volumes by Shinchosha. Book 1 and Book 2 were both published on May 29, 2009; Book 3 was published on April 16, 2010.
In English translation, Knopf published the novel in the United States in a single volume hardcover edition on October 25, 2011, and released a three volume paperback box-set on May 15, 2015. The cover for the hardcover edition, featuring a transparent dust jacket, was created by Chip Kidd and Maggie Hinders. In the United Kingdom the novel was published by Harvill Secker in two volumes. The first volume, containing Books 1 and 2, was published on October 18, 2011, followed by the second volume, containing Book 3, published on October 25, 2011.
Murakami spent four years writing the novel after coming up with the opening sequence and title. The title is a play on the Japanese pronunciation of the year 1984 and a reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The letter Q and ?, the Japanese number for 9 (typically romanized as "ky?", but as "kew" on the book's Japanese cover), are homophones, which are often used in Japanese wordplay.
Before the publication of 1Q84, Murakami stated that he would not reveal anything about the book, following criticism that leaks had diminished the novelty of his previous books. 1Q84 was noted for heavy advance orders despite this secrecy.
As in many of his previous works, Murakami makes frequent reference to composers and musicians, ranging from Bach to Vivaldi and Leo? Janá?ek, whose Sinfonietta pops up many times at crucial points in the novel. A verse from the 1933 song "It's Only a Paper Moon" by Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg and Billy Rose, also appears in the book and is the basis for a recurring theme throughout the work. In addition, Murakami refers to more contemporary artists such as Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus and The Rolling Stones.
The structure of the novel refers to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (alternate "major key" Aomame and "minor key" Tengo story lines forming 48 chapters of Books 1 and 2) and Goldberg Variations (Book 3).
In accordance with many of Murakami's novels, 1Q84 is dominated by religious and sacred concepts.1Q84's plot is built around a mystical cult and two long-lost lovers who are drawn into a distorted version of reality.1Q84 assigns further meaning to his previous novels. 1Q84 draws a connection between the supernatural and the disturbing. Readers are often cited as experiencing a religious unease that is similar to postmodern sensibilities. This unease is accomplished through Murakami's creation of characters whose religious prescriptions are presented as oppressive, as exemplified in the character of Leader, who is the founder of the Sakigake cult.
Religious othering is a major theme in 1Q84, as Murakami places sacred ideas as existing separately from everyday reality. This separation is often cited as emphasizing Murakami's view of religion as a negative force, which lies in opposition to normal, everyday life; however, Murakami is quite silent about his personal religious beliefs.
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The events of 1Q84 take place in Tokyo during a fictionalized year of 1984, with the first volume set between April and June, the second between July and September, and the third between October and December.
The book opens with a female character named Aomame (?) as she rides a taxi in Tokyo on her way to a work assignment. When the taxi gets stuck in a traffic jam on the Shibuya Route of the Shuto Expressway, the driver suggests that she get out of the car and climb down an emergency escape in order to make it to her important meeting, though he warns her that doing so might change the very nature of reality. After some hesitation, Aomame eventually makes her way to a hotel in Shibuya and poses as a hotel attendant in order to kill a hotel guest. She performs the murder with an ice pick that leaves almost no trace on its victim, leading investigators to conclude that he died a natural death from heart failure.
Aomame starts to have bizarre experiences, noticing new details about the world that are subtly different. For instance, she notices Tokyo police officers carrying automatic handguns, when they had previously carried revolvers. Aomame checks her memories against the archives of major newspapers and finds that there were several recent major news stories of which she has no recollection. One of these stories concerned a group of extremists who were engaged in a stand-off with police in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. Upon reading these articles, she concludes that she must be living in an alternative reality, which she calls "1Q84", and suspects that she entered it about the time she heard the Janá?ek Sinfonietta on the taxi radio.
Other characters are also introduced by then. Tengo is a writer and maths teacher in a local school in Japan. Komatsu, his editor and mentor, asks Tengo to rewrite an awkwardly written but otherwise promising manuscript, Air Chrysalis (). Komatsu wants to submit the novel for a prestigious literary prize and promote its author as a new literary prodigy. Tengo has reservations about rewriting another author's work, and especially that of a high-school student. He agrees to do so only if he can meet with the original writer, who goes by the strange pen name "Fuka-Eri", and ask for her permission. Fuka-Eri, however, tells Tengo to do as he likes with the manuscript.
Soon it becomes clear that Fuka-Eri, who is dyslexic, neither wrote the manuscript on her own, nor submitted it to the contest herself. Tengo's discomfort with the project deepens upon finding out that others must be involved. To address his concerns of her past, Fuka-Eri takes Tengo to meet her current guardian, a man called Professor Ebisuno-sensei (?), or simply "Sensei" to Fuka-Eri. Tengo learns that Fuka-Eri's parents were members of a commune called "Takashima" (?). Her father, Tamotsu Fukada () was Ebisuno's friend and colleague, but they did not see eye-to-eye on their subject. Fukada thought of Takashima as a utopia; Ebisuno described the commune as a place where people were turned into unthinking robots. Fuka-Eri, whom Ebisuno-sensei nicknames "Eri" (), was only a small child at the time.
In 1974, Fukada and 30 members founded a new commune called "Sakigake" (?). The young members of the commune worked hard under Fukada's leadership, but eventually disagreements led to the radical faction of "Sakigake" (?) to form a new commune called "Akebono" (?). The Akebono commune eventually has a gunfight with police near Lake Motosu () in Yamanashi Prefecture. Shortly after, Fuka-Eri appears on Ebisuno-sensei's doorstep. She does not speak and will not explain what happened to her. When Ebisuno attempts to contact Fukada at Sakigake, he is told that Fukada is unavailable. Ebisuno thereby becomes Fuka-Eri's guardian, and by the time of 1Q84's present, they have not heard from her parents for seven years, leading Ebisuno to fear the worst.
It is while living with Ebisuno that Fuka-Eri composes her story, Air Chrysalis. Unable to write it herself, she tells it to Azami (), Ebisuno's blood daughter. Fuka-Eri's story is about a girl's life in a commune, where she met a group of mystical beings, whom Fuka-Eri refers to as "Little People" (). Over time, Tengo begins to suspect that the mystical events described in Fuka-Eri's novel actually happened.
Meanwhile, Aomame recovers psychologically from her recent assignment to kill the hotel guest. It is revealed that she has a personal and professional relationship with an older wealthy woman referred to as the Dowager (). The Dowager occasionally pays Aomame to kill men who have been viciously abusive to women, and it becomes clear that both Aomame and the Dowager have personal pasts that fuel their actions. They see their organized murders as one way of fighting back against severe forms of domestic abuse.
Aomame is sexually promiscuous, and sometimes releases stress by going to singles bars and picking up older men. During one of these outings, she meets Ayumi (), a policewoman who also has sex to relieve stress. They start to combine their efforts, which works well for them both. Aomame's close friendship with Ayumi makes her recall an earlier friend of hers who was the victim of domestic abuse and committed suicide because of it. Aomame and Ayumi remain friends until one day when Aomame reads in the newspaper that Ayumi had been strangled to death in a hotel.
The Dowager introduces Aomame to a 10-year-old girl named Tsubasa (). Tsubasa and her parents have been involved with Sakigake. Tsubasa has been forcefully abused by the cult leader named only as "The Leader". As Tsubasa sleeps in the safe house owned by the Dowager, the "Little People", mentioned in Fuka-Eri's novel, Air Chrysalis, appear from Tsubasa's mouth and create an air chrysalis, a type of cocoon made from strands pulled straight out of the air. The Dowager had lost her own daughter to domestic abuse and now wants to adopt Tsubasa. However, Tsubasa mysteriously disappears from the safehouse, never to return.
The Dowager researches Sakigake and finds that there is widespread evidence of abuse. In addition to Tsubasa, other prepubescent girls had been sexually abused there. The Dowager asks Aomame to murder the religious head of Sakigake, the Leader, who is reported to have been the abuser. Aomame meets up with the Leader, who turns out to be a physically enormous person with muscle problems that cause him chronic, severe pain. He reveals that he is the father of Fuka-Eri and has special powers like telekinesis. He is also the one in Sakigake who can hear the religious voices speaking to him. The Leader, knowing that Aomame was sent to him to kill him, finally strikes a deal with her: she will kill him and he will protect Tengo from harm. After a long conversation with the Leader, Aomame finally kills him and goes into hiding at a prearranged location set up by the Dowager and Tamaru (), her bodyguard.
Aomame and Tengo's parallel worlds begin to draw closer to each other. Tengo is pursued by a private investigator, Ushikawa (?), who was hired by Sakigake. He follows Tengo in order to gather information on Air Chrysalis. Following the Leader's murder, Ushikawa is also ordered by Sakigake to determine the whereabouts of Aomame. The novel now begins to follow Ushikawa, who was once a lawyer who made a good living representing professional criminals. He got into legal trouble and had to abandon his career. His wife and two daughters left him, and ever since he has been working as a private detective. An ugly man who repels everyone he meets, Ushikawa is also quite intelligent and capable of gathering facts and using logic and deductive reasoning.
Ushikawa focuses on Tengo, Aomame, and the Dowager as suspects in his investigation. Since the Dowager's house is guarded well and since Aomame has disappeared without a trace, Ushikawa decides to stake out Tengo's apartment to see if he can find any information related to Aomame. He rents out a room in Tengo's apartment building and sets up a camera to take pictures of the residents. He witnesses Fuka-Eri, who has been hiding out at Tengo's apartment, coming and going from the building. Fuka-Eri seems to realize Ushikawa's presence, as she leaves a note for Tengo and takes off. Ushikawa later sees Tengo return home after a visit to see his dying father. Finally, Ushikawa spots Aomame leaving the building after she herself followed Ushikawa there in order to find Tengo.
After Ushikawa spots Aomame, but before he can report this to Sakigake, Tamaru sneaks into Ushikawa's room while he's asleep and interrogates the detective on his knowledge of Tengo and Aomame. Tamaru finds out that Ushikawa knows too much and is a liability to the safety of Aomame, the Dowager, and himself, and he ends up killing Ushikawa without leaving any marks or indications of how it was done. Tamaru then phones Ushikawa's contact at Sakigake and has them remove the detective's body from the apartment building.
Aomame and Tengo eventually find each other via Ushikawa's investigation and with Tamaru's help. They were once childhood classmates, though they had no relationship outside of a single classroom moment where Aomame tightly grasped Tengo's hand when no other children were around. That moment signified a turning point in both Aomame's and Tengo's lives, and they retained a fundamental love for each other despite all the time that had passed. After 20 years, Aomame and Tengo meet again, both pursued by Ushikawa and Sakigake. They manage to make it out of the strange world of "1Q84", which has two visible moons, into a new reality that they assume is their original world, though there are small indications that it is not. The novel ends with them standing in a hotel room, holding hands, looking at the one bright moon in the sky.
Tengo Kawana ( )
The Dowager ()
Professor Ebisuno ()
Among the positive reviews, The Guardians Douglas Haddow has called it "a global event in itself, [which] passionately defends the power of the novel". One review described 1Q84 as a "complex and surreal narrative" which "shifts back and forth between tales of two characters, a man and a woman, who are searching for each other." It tackles themes of murder, history, cult religion, violence, family ties and love. In another review for The Japan Times, it was said that the novel "may become a mandatory read for anyone trying to get to grips with contemporary Japanese culture", calling 1Q84 Haruki Murakami's "magnum opus". Similarly, Kevin Hartnett of The Christian Science Monitor considers it Murakami's most intricate work as well as his most ambitious and Charles Baxter of New York Review of Books praised the ambition of the novel down to the typography and attention to detail. Malcolm Jones of Newsweek considers this novel emblematic of Murakami's mastery of the novel, comparing him to Charles Dickens.
Among the negative reviews, Times Bryan Walsh found 1Q84 to be the weakest of Murakami's novels in part because it excises his typical first-person narrative. A negative review from The A.V. Club had Christian Williams calling the book "stylistically clumsy" with "layers of tone-deaf dialogue, turgid description, and unyielding plot"; he awarded a D rating. Also criticizing the book was Sanjay Sipahimalani, who felt the writing was too often lazy and clichéd, the Little People were risible rather than menacing, and that the book had too much repetition. Janet Maslin called the novel's "1000 uneventful pages" "stupefying" in her review for The New York Times. She had previously picked Murakami's earlier work, Kafka on the Shore, as one of the best 10 novels in 2005.
It also received the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards in the category Best Fiction.
In 2019, in a survey conducted by Asahi Shimbun (a respected Japanese daily) amongst 120 Japanese literary experts, 1Q84 was voted the best book published during the Heisei era (1989-2018).