Excerpt: Haruki Murakami's 1Q84

First word of Haruki Murakami's magnum opus 1Q84 (pronounced 'ichi kyū hachi yon' in Japanese) only came to me today, a year or so after its publication in Japanese.

This might be partly due to the fact that the book was never translated to English (the first and second volumes of 1Q84 are available in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. There is still no official word as to when the English versions would be available.) Or it might be because of the hefty, two-volume length of the novel: 1,055 pages.

Not that the Japanese are easily intimidated by this... the book sold nearly 500,000 copies before it was even published and it occupied the top two spots on Amazon Japan's book rankings for a few weeks after it finally was, in June 2009.

Hailed as a contemporary version of George Orwell's 1984, 1Q84 (Q is pronounced the same as 9 in Japanese, hence the word-play) is a dystopian novel; an alternative-reality story; an 'Alice in Wonderland' of of sorts, wherein a female sports instructor called Aomame accidentally descends an emergency staircase to a 'similar-but-different' world wherein she quickly becomes a serial killer for no apparent reason.

More on the menu is the story of Tengo, a passive-aggressive university entrance-exam math prep instructor whose lack of experience as a published author leads him to secretly rewrite a 17-year-old girl's surreal novel about a commune of little people, a girl and a blind goat, leaving the by-now-much-confused-reader with a novel-inside-a-novel micronarrative wherein crucial issues such as the writing process, cultism, sex, love, violence, loss, and murder are discussed in length.

The events elaborated in 1Q84 take place (not too surprisingly) in 1984  (the 'real' one, not Orwell's). 

But this isn't the 1984 we're used to; though Michael Jackson's hits flow out of car radios, Princess Diana is still alive, and Iran-Iraq war news is broadcast in CNN, little details painfully spotted by Aomame slowly lead us to understand that this is not 1984 after all, but rather a counterpart point in time (the Oulipians would have loved this novel, that much is sure by now).

I'm afraid thats all I have to say of this ambiguous novel at the moment. 

The excerpt from the book is in Japanese so there's not much I can make from it (I still don't trust Google translator enough to guide me through my literary decisions).

You'll have to make up your own mind when the book's finally published in English (if it ever will..)

VERDICT: DON'T BUY IT (until its published in English, duh..)


  1. It sounds so very Murakami-esque! Why would the Oulipians like it?
    I wonder if I'll ever fall in love with a Murakami (or any other) novel as much as I did with "Kafka on the Shore". Have you read it?

  2. Haven't read Kafka on the Shore, no.

    I've only Read Norwegian Wood (and then, maybe only due to the Beatlesian title) and Murakami's 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' (wrote about it, amongst other things here - http://a-2da-z.blogspot.com/2009/12/zone-of-ones-own_1146.html)

    As for the Oulipians liking this novel, I think they would have because of the plot-within-a-plot and alternative reality schticks.
    Though Murakami has been toying with the SCI-FI lately ('The Wind-Up Bird')

  3. the wind-up bird isn't exactly sci-fi... It's Murakami, not in any familiar genre but his own. Do read Kafka, it's so beautiful!

  4. I will keep 'reading-Kafka-as-a-must' in mind..
    Tx Lee

  5. Thanks for the comment on my old site. My new site is here: http://howtojaponese.com/

    I read all of 1Q84 in Japanese and reviewed it here: http://neojaponisme.com/2009/07/28/loss-and-recovery-1q84-and-murakamis-sunken-continent/

    My review of Book 3 is here: