In parallel, a math teacher and aspiring novelist named Tengo gets an interesting offer. His editor has come upon an entry for a young writer's literary prize, a story that, despite its obvious stylistic drawbacks, strikes a deeply moving chord with those who've read it. Its author is a mysterious 17-year-old, and the editor proposes that Tengo quietly rewrite the story for the final round of the competition.
So begins Haruki Murakami's magnus opus, an epic of staggering proportions. As the tale progresses, it folds in a deliciously intriguing cast of characters: a physically repulsive private investigator, a wealthy dowager with a morally ambiguous mission, her impeccably resourceful bodyguard, the leader of a somewhat obscure and possibly violent religious organization, a band of otherworldly "Little People," a door-to-door fee collector seemingly immune to the limits of space and time, and the beautiful Fuka-Eri: dyslexic, unfathomable, and scarred.
Aomame names her new world "1Q84" in honor of its mystery: "Q is for 'question mark.' A world that bears a question.'" Weaving through it, central motifs--the moon, Janáček's Sinfonietta, George Orwell's 1984--acquire powerful resonance, and Aomame and Tengo's paths take on a conjoined life of their own, dancing with a protracted elegance that requires nearly 1,000 pages to reach its crowning denouement.
1Q84 was a runaway best seller in its native Japan, but it's more instructive to frame the book's importance in other ways. For one, it's hard not to compare it to James Joyce's Ulysses. Both enormous novels mark their respective author's most ambitious undertaking by far, occupy an artificially discrete unit of time (Ulysses, one day; 1Q84, one year), and can be read as having a narrative structure that evinces an almost quantum-mechanical relationship to reality, which is not to say that either author intended this.
More to the point, the English translation of 1Q84--easily the grandest work of world literature since Roberto Bolaño's 2666--represents a monstrous literary event. Now would somebody please award Murakami his Nobel Prize? --Jason Kirk
A Globe and Mail Best Book
Shortlisted for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award
“1Q84 goes further than any Murakami novel so far, and perhaps further than any novel before it, toward exposing the delicacy of the membranes that separate love from chance encounters, the kind from the wicked, and reality from what people living in the pent-up modern world dream about when they go to sleep under an alien moon.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Murakami’s fiction has grown increasingly relevant to our understanding of the world today, and this time his craft is more refined than ever. . . . This novel—mired in death and fetish, leavened with humor—may become a mandatory read for anyone trying to get to grips with contemporary Japanese culture.”
—The Japanese Times
“‘Things are not what they seem.’ If Murakami’s ambitious, sprawling and thoroughly stunning new novel had a tagline, that would be it. . . . Orwellian dystopia, sci-fi, the modern world (terrorism, drugs, apathy, pop novels)—all blend in this dreamlike, strange and wholly unforgettable epic.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“You'll find genuine wisdom and emotional depth in 1Q84. Mr. Murakami has gone further here to develop the sensations of loss and isolation.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Murakami really does stand alone . . . Which other author can remind you simultaneously of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and JK Rowling, not merely within the same chapter but on the same page? Viewed through the ‘postmodern’ lens, his exemplary blend of a light touch and weighty themes, of high literature and popular entertainment, ticks every box. Posh and pop, sublimity and superficiality, history and fantasy, trash and transcendence: they switch positions and then fuse as the metaphysical speculations of an Ivan Karamazov meet the death-defying adventures of a Harry Potter.”
—The Independent (UK)
Praise for Haruki Murakami:
"Murakami is like a magician who explain what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers... But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's a rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves."
— The New York Times Book Review