Thursday, 18 April 2013

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

It's so much easier when books leave me with a very clear idea of what I want to say about them. It's much more difficult when I don't find that one hook that I want to rant about or laud to the skies.

I'm sort of in that position with 1Q84. I enjoyed it, as I always enjoy Murakami, while being at the same time slightly befuddled by it. His books are a little like reading dreams - weird as all get out, with dream logic that makes sense in context, but make me feel foggy and unsure about what happened by the light of day.

So did I love this? Not really. Like it? A great deal.

I think my bewilderment about what to write also partly comes from the distance I always feel between Murakami and the characters and worlds he creates. It's not the cruel gaze of an author torturing insects for our amusement (a charge my husband often makes about Milan Kundera.) But at the same time, there is that sense of detachment.

So, what did I like? I enjoyed the oddness of the story, of the two characters, Aomame and Tengo, as they try to find each other, while negotiating a world that suddenly has two moons.

(And it gave me a real pause, as I started this while I was reading Under Heaven, and was feeling regretful that Kay's world didn't have two moons, as his often do, then opened this book, and there they were! It was like my fictional universes had started to bleed together - something I think Murakami would enjoy mightily.)

I enjoyed the creepiness, the sense that things were deeply, intensely wrong, without having those things precisely defined. Sometimes the shadows are scarier than what hides inside them.

God help me, I did enjoy the self-referential nature of the book, and the almost-too-clever references to literary conventions, and how they need not necessarily come true, as those things only happen in books. For some reason, this worked for me. Particularly the Chekhov.

What didn't I like? The distance I alluded to earlier, I guess.

The translation was a little clunky at time (at least that's what I think it was - I read someone talking about how when the book always, always refers to one character as his "older girlfriend," that that's a literal translation that jars in English.)

Reviewing this book has been a great deal like trying to hold on to impressions of a dream. I may dream it again some day. Until then, it feels slightly unreal and I'm not entirely sure I'm awake yet.

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