Discussion of Book One of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (to page 309 in hardcover edition.)
We have met Aomame and Tengo, our two main protagonists. Aomame is a martial arts instructor and physical education trainer with aptitudes for massage, acupuncture and quietly killing wealthy men who beat their wives. Tengo is a writer.
Our secondary characters for the Aomame storyline are the dowager and her body guard, the cop and prowling buddy Ayumi, and her deceased friend who still occupies a lot of Aomame’s thoughts. For Tengo, we have Komatsu his editor, Fuka-Eri the original writer of the Air Chrysalis novel, her caretaker the Professor and Tengo’s lover lady who is extremely jealous.
WHAT’s HAPPENED SO FAR?
We meet Aomame as she gets stuck in traffic riding in a too-nice taxi that first sets her on the idea that something might not be right about the world but it was the cops carrying guns who really clue her in to oddities. When she starts finding out about events in the past she knows nothing about but should and sees two moons, she calls this new odd reality 1Q84. She is introduced to a 10 year old girl who appears to have been horribly abused, possibly by a religious secret farming cult.
Tengo gets involved with a re-write ‘enhancement’ of a fantastical story written by a 17 year old girl named Fuka-Eri who says the story is actually true. Tengo is uncomfortable with the ethics question of his involvement, especially when it wins a literary award and becomes a best-seller. He also feels strangely empowered by the writing challenge and finally begins writing his own work.
Fuka-Eri has history with that religious farming cult having ‘escaped’ — we assume, since she hasn’t really talked about it — 10 years prior. She knows of the Little People, in fact what little we know about Air Chrysalis, they are important. The little girl is unknowingly harboring a few of these Little People and it’s all getting quite strange. I was sad that the dog was killed.
I still haven’t figured out if only Aomame sees two moons or how many moons Tengo or anyone sees in the sky. The Air Chrysalis story features two moons.
And I suspect the Professor has motives we haven’t yet explored – who is he really? And Tengo’s lover’s jealousy bothers me. But then, if she feels arrogant enough to keep her husband AND take on a lover, I suppose she feels entitled to have it all her way.
Questions lifted and modified and inspired from LITLOVERS – an online book lovers community:
Q1 – The taxi driver in Chapter 1 warns Aomame that things are not what they seem, but he also tells her: “Don’t let appearances fool you. There’s always only one reality” (p. 9). Does this statement hold true throughout the novel? Is there only one reality, despite what appears to be a second reality that Aomame and Tengo enter?
I’m actually not sure if another reality is being woven into the TRUE reality or why only Aomame doesn’t know about the gun battle that happened a few years prior.
Q2 – Aomame tells Ayumi: “We think we’re choosing things for ourselves, but in fact we may not be choosing anything. It could be that everything’s decided in advance and we pretend we’re making choices. Free will may be an illusion” (p. 192). Do the events in the novel seem fated or do the characters have free will?
Great question. Hurts my brain to ponder free will versus destiny.
Q3 – The dowager insists, and Aomame agrees, that the killing they do is completely justified, that the men whom they kill deserve to die, that the legal system can’t touch them, and that more women will be victims if these men aren’t stopped. Is it true that Aomame and the dowager have done nothing wrong? Or are they simply rationalizing their anger and the desire for vengeance that arises from their own personal histories?
The bastards had it comin’.
Q4 – Tengo realizes that rewriting Air Chrysalis is highly unethical and that Komatsu is asking him to participate in a scam that will very likely cause them both a great deal of trouble. Why does he agree to do it?
I’m not a literature student and I do get perturbed by plagiarism but I don’t quite get this as being HIGHLY unethical; or is ethical black and white, yes or no. I have to ask how – and maybe it aint true? how people can have ghost writers or be a big name and have other people write stories for them which is what I’ve heard Patterson does.
Q5 – How does rewriting Air Chrysalis change Tengo as a writer? How does it affect the course of his life?
Duh, yea. Tengo wouldn’t have met Fuka-Eri and you know somehow he is going to rescue her – he is in deep bat shit trouble with her already, emotionally and likely physically. As long as he doesn’t crawl in to a deep dry well of total darkness to do some thinking, I’m ok with it.
and my top-of-the-head questions:
Does anyone else call Aomame ‘Green Peas’ when they read her name? (I do.)
Do you like the back and forth chapters between Aomame and Tengo? When do you think they will meet? Will Tengo remember her? Did you figure out earlier than the reveal that Aomame was the classmate of Tengo’s who held his hand when they were 10?
Does Tengo remind you of the guy in Wind-up Bird? (YES. Somewhat passive? keeps to himself.)
Did you have an uh-oh moment when you realized you don’t quite recall the plot of 1984 and might want to before reading on but then Tengo conveniently gives a quick little recap and you feel better about not remembering that book you probably read 30 years ago? Yea, me too.
Would you nominate HM for bad-sex-writing? Read all about that here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/25/haruki-murakami-bad-sex-award
But don’t read too far! I have already had major plot points spoiled (not that I shouldn’t have seen ’em coming.)
On a scale of SMOOTH & SEAMLESS to BUMPY & JARRING, where would you put this translation?
It does seem a bit quirky-not-good in a few parts but overall, I haven’t really noticed anything too odd. Maybe I’m not paying enough attention or because I’ve read an HM translated by this guy already, I’m used to it?
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