It’s George Orwell’s year 1984 in Tokyo, Japan. Or is it? This new best-selling fictional novel by contemporary author Haruki Murakami unfolds on the gridlocked elevated Tokyo Expressway, and follows the complicated lives of two protagonists. And complicated it is and it takes 925 pages to unravel.
One is male: Tengo Kawana, a 30 year old cram school math instructor, who secretly hopes to become a writer. The other is female: 30 year old Masami Aomame, a personal trainer at a sports club, who leads a secret life. The clever story doesn’t reveal their connection till much later in this fast-paced, gripping plot throughout a year (April to December of 1984).
Needless to say I can’t reveal the plot except to tell the readers that it involves a religious cult, dislike of domestic violence, and a well-written cast of characters – editor Komatsu, bodyguard Tamaru of wealthy dowager Ogata, 17 year old author Fuka-Eri and her guardian Professor Ebisuno, and an unethical attorney/investigator Ushizawa. What could be better than an unethical attorney as one of the villains? And the novel develops the concept of a parallel universe…
This may indeed be Murakami’s best novel yet, and I’ve read most of them (“A Wild Sheep Chase”, “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle”, “Kafka on the Shore”, “After Dark”, etc.). And I’ve blogged about his non-fiction account of the sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway (click here for my review of “The Underground”).
And there is a Tucson connection, as Dr. Phil Gabriel, Chair of the University of Arizona East Asian Studies is one of the two translators of this massive work. Not being able to read or write Japanese I admire that talent a lot (and I feel a bit in awe being 3rd generation Japanese American).
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1Q84 for detailed background including the title’s origin in the Japanese language. It took 3 years to write this novel, which appeared in Japan in 3 books, and sold out on the first day of publication (1 million copies in the first month). Now that’s popularity.
The front book jacket describes this novel as “a love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self discovery, a dystopia…”. It is all that, and more.
But I also have to warn the readers that there are some sexually explicit scenes in this novel which some may find uncomfortable.
Read 1Q84 – the Q is for “question mark” (and my online review of “1984″), and then reflect upon the moon in the night sky, as our moon plays a part in the plot as well.