The mundane banality of assassination.
The mundane banality of novel re-writing.
The mundane banality of Air Chrysalises, Maza’s, Dohta’s and Paedophilic Sex Rituals involving Total Body Paralysis, the Little People and some weird religious cult Leader under a Second (greenish) Moon.
Yes, it’s all here in Japanese author Haruki Murakami‘s new novel “1Q84” (ichi-kyu-hachi-yon, books one and two) translated by Jay Rubin. Each of the two books in this hardback version, released separately in Japan, as was “Norwegian Wood” and “Wind-up Bird Chronicle,” sold ONE MILLION copies on release. And for those of you who don’t know what the title means, Q is the Japanese way to say Nine, hence an allusion to George Orwell’s novel “1984;” the date of the novel’s setting at least.
Before we get going: anyone wanting to get a taste of Murakami’s particular brand of ODD might like to pick up the short story collection “The Elephant Vanishes” or “After The Quake.” That’s going to give you an example of how unique a Murakami novel can be.
I’m a big fan of Murakami’s off-kilter-urban narratives, and his inclusion of a written soundtrack in most of his novels. In “1Q84″, Murakami plays for us Charles Mingus, The Rolling Stones and Billie Holiday. Leos Janacek’s “Sinfonietta” actually plays a crucial symbolic role in the book, linking two of the major characters across the chasm of parallel worlds.
In the novel:
A young assassin named Aomame (whose name means ‘green peas’) enters a parallel world, the 1Q84 of the title. She knows it’s a parallel world because there’s a second, greener moon. And it looks like the local police have had a weapons upgrade.
An unpublished writer named Tengo, in collusion with radical magazine editor Komatsu, conspire to re-write and publish an enigmatic novella Air Chrysalis sent in by a third party. The game is set and instant fame is guaranteed, once the rewritten novel wins a major Japanese literary prize.
But the cracks start to show and the cosy worlds of both Aomame and Tengo start to crumble around them. Seems their worlds were always destined to collide. Dissolve into each other.
The novel spends its time alternating between the story of Aomame and the story of Tengo. They skid past each other from time to time but there’s no narrative collision, they’re not a “team” as such. But they are connected, in ways that stretch back through time to a pivotal moment when they were both ten years old.
Here in UK, “1Q84″ (containing books one and two) was published in October 18, 2011, while “1Q84″’s book three was published shortly after in Oct 23, 2011. In Japan, the first two books were released in May of 2009 and the Japanese had to wait ONE YEAR for the third book to be released.
Books one and two total 640 pages, which I read in a few days, so page-turnery and delicious was the lunacy of the ride. Murakami’s depiction of True Evil™ takes the form of the stalking aura of paedophilia that permeates the novel like a lingering noxious fume. It is a wonderfully banal and mundane illustration of such; matter of fact. Properly horrific. The book galloped thunderously (was brutally horse-whipped) to its open-ended “climax,” and I was thinking that this is going to be another “After Dark”  part-story-not-fully-resolved.
I don’t read dust jacket blurbs before plunging into any book as they generally tend to spoil what I’m about to read, but having done so I discovered there’s a book 3 that will get the Philip Gabriel translation treatment, a translator who I respect the most in that he seems able to wring every single ounce of angst from the writer’s original text and isn’t too funky with his wording. And he didn’t let me down…
A quarter of the way into the third book of “1Q84″ and I’m on the edge of my seat, the tension is growing and growing … PLEASE MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!!
Halfway through and he seems to have found a way to break the narrative deadlock. But the way Murakami keeps “putting off the inevitable” makes me understand why women might love his books so, he’s a flirt, a tease, an orgasm prolonger. I can laugh at myself for such a contentious and pretentious statement.
The best part about book three is the third angle or the additional chapters of Ushikawa, the detective hired by the weird religious Cult Leader. Ushikawa is mentioned, in passing, in the first two books, but really comes into his own in book three where we see his intimate connection to the storyline. Inspirational inclusion.
BONUS MATERIAL: on the subject of Murakami’s insistence on wedging-in fantastical supernatural imagery into his otherwise dour-realism novels, I’m gonna quote a relevant section from an excellent 2004 interview with Paris Review: 
We are living in a fake world; we are watching fake evening news. We are fighting a fake war. Our government is fake. But we find reality in this fake world. So our stories are the same; we are walking through fake scenes, but ourselves, as we walk through these scenes, are real. The situation is real, in the sense that it’s a commitment, it’s a true relationship.
Bibliography: 1. Philbin, Mike. "Haruki Murakami's AFTER DARK:" Mikephilbin.blogspot.co.uk. June 12, 2007. 2. Wray, John. "Haruki Murakami, The Art of Fiction No. 182." The Paris Review. Retrieved on March 28, 2012.