Saturday, July 21, 2012

1Q84: Weaving Metaphysical Threads of Time, Love and Memories

Spoilers! Ending Reveal at the end but don't let it get to ya! Read this book all the same.

When you chance upon a novel such as this, there is no way not to balk. It is about 1000 pages thick, with no paperback version, and authored by Murakami himself, the Contemporary King of Magical Realism who asks his readers for an almost insurmountable amount of suspended belief. A sharp imagination is required before the journey starts at Page 1, but it is a journey worth the miles.

1Q84 has the touch of alternate-world feel with an edgy, dreamlike pace. The novel has its surreal story that you can try to tie with reality by understanding and interpretation, but only with a fine silk thread that breaks when stretched. It is every inch a Haruki Murakami, but we are treated to an ending that is shocking as far as his signature style goes.

I started reading this when I was commuting home, stuck in traffic with only my iPod playing series of classical Romantic Pieces by Antonín Dvořák and a heavy book to save me from boredom. And what do you know, the very opening of 1Q84 made me almost ill, gravely suspicious, looking around me and up to the darkened clouds like some unknown Eye in the Sky waited for this very moment for me to open this very book. It was like a force of nature. "Freewill" was damned. I figured I could start with the first two chapters and get to know the people in 1Q84  just in time to get off at my stop.

In the book, Aomame was stuck in traffic too, the expressway congested to a bumper-to-bumper traffic with no end in sight, bored faces of other vehicle drivers around, the taxi she's riding playing a charged symphony of Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček which Aomame was surprised to know she actually knew.  And although a history buff, Aomame had very little inkling for timelines of classical music.

Personally, when it comes to classical music, I am lost on composers and long titles with foreign names. While I appreciate very much the melody and the symphony, I would never be able to tell you who composed this, or that, but I can tell you if I've already listened to it or if I liked it. Normally, we're all like that, right? But somehow, with just a little taxi music as trigger, Aomame knew the entire breadth of the history of the musical piece from the depths of her subconsious.

Aomame had to shake off an unpleasant, suspicious feeling with small talk with the taxi driver. She was running late for a meeting, and the taxi driver told her of a hidden stairway from within the expressway that was a shortcut to take her to Shibuya. But his monotone warning about it seemed a bit unnerving.
"Please remember: things are not what they seem... It's just that you're about to do something out of the ordinary. Am I right? People just do not ordinarily climb down the emergency stairs of the Metropolitan Expressway in the middle of the day--especially women ... And after you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before. I've had that experience myself. But don't let appearances fool you. There's only one reality." 
After that bizzare word of caution, Aomame goes to the turnout and walks to find the stairs, careful not to get her skirt and coat wrinkled and her stockings caught while she descended down the ladder. Her 'meeting' cannot be forestalled any longer. There's a job she was paid to do: the icepick in her purse needs to be stealthily jammed in someone's neck as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Tengo is trying to decipher a disturbing, recurring dream, that even when he's awake he has visions of. It is him as a baby, about a year old, in the crib adjacent to the bed where his mother has just taken off her light, white slip to reveal a smooth expanse of breast for a man who Little Tengo knew was not the father he has known. This fragment of memory has long filled Tengo with curiosity, guilt and apprehension. He doubts that the brain in the stages of infancy can remember such vivid details, and for him to remember it up until now. Memory seems a running theme in 1Q84 and it is tied with 'reality versus the fanciful and the temporary'; who can really be sure that what you are remembering from very early childhood is not a product of a hyperactive imagination? Is it only a parcel of a story heard from somewhere or from someone else?

Growing up, this "attack" of memory would leave Tengo almost paralyzed; whether standing up or sitting down as the all-too-familiar crib, bed, his mother, and the unknown man would materialize all around him, his brain gets dizzy from trying to grasp the temporary memory while losing grip of reality. At that very moment when the memory attack seized him, he was with Komatsu, a long-time acquaintance with a sharp glint in his eye. Komatsu repeats his proposition to Tengo: to serve as a ghost writer for Air Chrysalis, a terrifying and strange novel written by a 16-year-old almost-mute girl. The novel shortlisted for one of Japan literature's great awards.

I arrived at my destination just in time to complete the first two chapters of the novels. I couldn't put it down. And every free time I had was dedicated to reading 1Q84, and the exquisite pulling-off each layer and strand that make up the weaves of Aomame and Tengo's life in 1Q84. There are so many menacing aspects of this novel, especially when it comes to "religious/academic cults" and the otherworldly secrets that they protect. There is the deep silence of the children and the moon, who are the key observers in the foreboding that surrounds the events. My imagination ran wild with the characters, Ushikawa 'the Ugly', Fuka-Eri the young girl who ran away from a cult bringing with her the fantastic tales of the Little People and the Weaving of the Chrysalis and the 'Cat Town' that Tengo was lost in.

And despite all these things that were woven to wall up and force things apart, Aomame and Tengo, with almost virtually no communication and no other memory of each other except that quiet afternoon from 20 years ago when Aomame took Tengo's hands into her own, they fought through the muddle of 1Q84, for whatever little they have and to hold once again each other's hands under the brightly-lit moon.

You all knew I cried at the end right? And yes, the ending is shocking as far as Murakami goes. But my heart was close to bursting in tears of delight.


1 comment:

  1. hi! :)
    i am still currently reading 1Q84 :) why'd you stop blogging? :)