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Travel Books

Q is for question mark — 1Q84

October 8, 2017
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Reading 1Q84 has thought me a lot about patience, perseverance and social snobbery. For one, this is a thick hardbound trilogy with about a thousand pages so I had to ignore the internet, social networks and the people around me just so I could keep my reading phase to two or three chapters per night. If I hadn’t been lying in bed while reading the book, it would have helped develop my arm muscles. So instead of grabbing an opportunity at landing on a sports illustrated magazine, I gained more weight due to massive consumption of chips on my bed.

Kidding aside, 1Q84 is another great novel deserving to be placed in the “Read Me Again” section of my library (if ever I’d really have a library). Although I must confess that, because the story was too long, the phasing of the story becomes too dragging as it approached the end, particularly the parts where a series of uncontrolled events (like the female protagonist, Aomame, had to talk to the dowager’s bodyguard on the phone while the male protagonist, Tengo, was standing on top of the slide) would prevent the three characters from meeting each other, but once you finally finished reading up to the very last page, you’ll understand the author’s meaning and purpose.

As with all the other Haruki Murakami novels I’ve read so far, 1Q84 started with a piece of music playing in the background — Janáček’s Sinfonietta — and you’d have to read the entire book to grasp the significance of that music to the development of the story.

Aomame is a skilled gym instructor who is as skillful in killing a man with a needle-like tool in mere seconds without leaving any trace. These skills and a series of peculiar events would lead her to the world of 1Q84 where logic serves no meaning. But before that, she’s a daughter of a devout religious (most probably Jehova’s Witness) who would drag her from door to door to distribute religious materials on weekends.

Tengo is a genius in everything he does — math, sports, music, writing. He’s a son of an NHK network subscription fee collector who would take him during his Sunday rounds. He teaches math at a college-admission preparatory school thrice a week and writes novels on his free time. When he conspired to re-write a story written by a seventeen-year-old dyslexic, he had dragged himself into the world where there are two moons and air chrysalises.

Together, though separated in that alternate reality, the two had to do work together to bring down a mysterious cult lead by the “voice” and the Little People.

From what I’ve read somewhere, 1Q84 was first published in Japanese with the title 1Q84 which is pronounced in Japanese as Ichi-Kyu-Hachi-Yon. Nine (kyuu) and Q (kyu) have similar Japanese pronunciations but the Japanese character for question mark is pronounced as “ka” in Japanese so I have no idea how Haruki Murakami conjured that title instead of simply opting for 1984, which lacks the same mystery brought about by the letter Q, or probably how Tengo refers to the parallel universe they got trapped into — the cat town — which also lacks the appeal that 1Q84 have caught me with.

Notable locations in 1Q84

The guys running Haruki Murakami Fan Blog created a map of the most important locations in Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84. Locations are marked and colored as follows: green for places related to the Aomame plot line; red for Tengo; yellow for both of them; and blue for other important or simply interesting locations.

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