By Haruki Murakami
1Q84 is vintage Alice-in-Wonderland Murakami. It is also a love story and a thriller. It kept me enthralled through much of its large number of pages and when it was over, there was that bit of regret that always accompanies the end of an engaging book.
Aomame and Tengo are the lonely boy and lonely girl who meet and part when they are ten years old and from then on carry a part of each other with them as they go about their not-so-ordinary lives. It takes twenty years before a shift in the time-space continuum get them to start looking for each other. It is 1984, not yet Orwellian, but Aomame goes under a freeway and comes out into a shifted world that she names 1Q84. There are two moons in this world, policemen’s uniforms are changed and they carry more sophisticated weapons. There are cults and cult leaders who hear voices from Little People and have sex with pre-pubescent girls. There are alter egos and sex through mediums (not a new concept in Murakami novels) and dreams that are as good as reality. There are stories within stories and thriller-type surveillance, tracking and killings. Aomame’s 1q84 is Tengo’s cat town and they have to find each other in this altered time and then get out of it to escape its consequences.
And through it all, there are the normal Murakami touches. Obscure European classical music, Western pop references, cats and girls with beautiful ears. And simple, straightforward language and narrative and some uncomplicated philosophy – “We come in, sit down, have a cup of tea, gaze out the window at the scenery, and when the time comes we say thank you and leave. All the furniture is fake. Even the moon hanging in the window may be made of paper.”
It is a world where the rules that normally govern it have loosened up, there is little logic and when Aomame says ‘It’s very difficult to logically explain the illogical”, she probably speaks for Murakami fans trying to explain their fascination for this strange but magical writer. But at the end, 1Q84 is a strangely moving and lyrical love story of a boy and a girl who are connected, unchanged through a strange labyrinthine world even through twenty years. “The two of them on top of the freezing slide, worldlessly holding hands. Once again they were a ten year old boy and girl. A lonely boy and a lonely girl….They had never, ever, been truly loved or truly loved someone else…The two of them didn’t know it at the time, but this was the only truly complete place in the entire world. Totally isolated, yet the one place not tainted with loneliness.” And like the lyrics of Paper Moon, a phrase Murakami keeps using, finally, his message is of the power of love – “It's a Barnum and Bailey world/ Just as phony as it can be/ But it wouldn't be make-believe/If you believed in me.”