What is ‘1Q84’?

Murakami & His Fictional Eclipse:
What is ‘1Q84’?

1Q84 is the love story of Tengo and Aomame. In 1Q84, a fictionalized world hidden within the actual Tokyo Japan of 1984, the lives of Aomame and Tengo run parallel. Although they have been separated for twenty years, the two star-crossed lovers view one an other as the one person in their lives who unceasingly grounds them. For mysterious reasons, Tengo and Aomame become involved, unknowingly, in separate crimes working against the same religious cult called the Sakigate. As Tengo reluctantly agrees to rewrite Air Chrysalis, an evocative, yet illiterate, novel submitted to his editor by the dyslexic seventeen year-old Fuka-Eri, Aomame is set out by one of her clients to murder Tamotsu Fukada, the sacred Leader of Sakigate. The novel instantly becomes a bestseller after winning a literary magazine’s new writer’s prize, thereby revealing the precious secrets of the Sakigate commune, such as the maza and dohta relationship, the creation of air chrysalis, and the whisperings of the Little People.
In this strange world seemingly transformed from a ‘real’ one-mooned 1984 into the ‘made-up’ two-mooned world of 1Q84, Murakami seamlessly glides through a wide range of topics, ranging from crime to time, sex and music, ethics and society, and of course, the art of writing fiction. Spanning some 1157 pages long, Murakami’s cinematic prose weave the threads of fiction and reality until the two worlds become one. The characters are even unsure of what is made-up and what is real. Wedged into a corner between the eclipsed dimensions of fiction and reality with only their memories of the past solidifying their existence in the present, the characters in 1Q84 are left feeling a deep sense of powerlessness.
Aomame especially is haunted by a series of memories from her past. The memories of a best friend’s suicide, a family that has disowned her after she leaves their religious cult, the holding of hands with Tengo, her childhood soul-mate, all leave Aomame with an intense feeling of powerlessness. While she can no longer alter the memories of her past, she can’t erase them either, and they remain perpetually stagnant in her present. She has lost all control over the important components of life: friends, family, and love. Seeking for control over her life, Aomame has become an outstanding martial arts instructor and physical therapist. Although, her strict dedication to temperance and discipline is not invincible, and like an unfortunate rip in the hole of a previously handy umbrella, eventually allows drops of confusion and self-doubt to trickle through. Even the shape of her nails triggers pangs of acute insecurity: “Looking at her nails, Aomame had a strong sense of what a fragile, fleeting thing her own existence was. Something as simple as the shape of her fingernails: it had been decided without her. Somebody else made the decision, and all I could do was go along with it, like it or not. Who could have decided that this was how my nails would be shaped?” Elsewhere, Aomame expresses her belief that “free will may be an illusion” and that “even if you managed to escape from one cage, were you just in another larger one?”
Likewise, Tengo feels barred by the invisible barriers of the world. Luckily, for Tengo, he finds a source of therapeutic release in the act of storytelling. In a puzzling conversation with Fuka-Eri, the seventeen-year old girl who has just won the new writer’s prize, Tengo reveals to this young girl his philosophy behind the art of creative writing:

“So in the world that isn’t here, people do pretty much the same things as those of us who are in this world. If that’s the case, then, what’s the point of its being a world that isn’t here?”
“The point of being a world that isn’t here is in being able to rewrite the past of the world that is here.” Tengo said.
“So you can rewrite the past any way you like, as much as you like?”
“That’s right.”
“Do you want to rewrite the past?”
“Don’t you want to rewrite the past?
She shook her head, “No I don’t have the slightest desire to rewrite the past or history or whatever. What I’d like to rewrite is the present, here and now.”
“But if you rewrote the past, obviously, the present would change, too. What we call the present is given shape by an accumulation of the past.”

Possibly making a meta-literary reference to his own rewriting, or rather, retelling of George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, Murakami’s title – 1Q84 – accrues an entirely unique meaning. Aomame’s early claim that Q is for a question mark, “a world that bears a question,” slowly accrues deeper significance throughout the novel, as the title essentially comes to represent the world of fiction at large. 1Q84 represents all the stories that have been written, all the stories that are being read this very moment, and all the stories that will ever be written. And more importantly, our emotional response to them all of them. For Murakami, as Tengo puts it, “the role of the story, in the broadest terms, is to transpose a single problem into another form. Depending on the nature and direction of the problem, a solution could be suggested in narrative: "It was like a piece of paper bearing the indecipherable text of a magic spell.” And although, “at times it lacked coherence and served no immediate practical purpose […] it would contain a possibility.” Like Aomame and Tengo’s chaotic journey through the world of two moons, life and the art of fiction contain a ceaseless numbers of possibility, and someday, eventually, we are able to discover the meaning of that spell. But until then, we hold the knowledge of possibility, the possibility for meaning, the possibility of making sense of memories, the possibility for the enjoyment of music and laughter and tears and beers, but mostly, we hold the knowledge of the possibility for love, and this possibility, most amazingly, gently warms our hearts from within. 


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