“Tell me, Tengo, as a novelist, what is your definition of reality?”
Murakami’s novels have consistently explored the merging of the surreal and the mundane in a truly Kafkaesque manner. His latest work, 1Q84, is no exception.
It follows the stories of two protagonists, Aomame and Tengo, in two separate storylines, as they find themselves shifted to the alternate reality of 1Q84, a world where two moons hang in the sky, and strange forces are at work. When Tengo, a 30 year old cram school teacher and fiction writer, ghostwrites a novel titled Air Chrysalis, he throws into motion a series of events. This is 1Q84; anything can happen. Yet, the world does follow its own set of strange and inexplicable logic.
This novel is Murakami’s best work yet: with his matter-of-fact, softly unemotional tone, he manages to capture the essence of modern Japanese society perfectly yet again. And, despite this softly unemotional tone, the reader feels a distinct connection with each of the protagonists.
In the end, it is an exploration of the loneliness. The two protagonists, having borne their loneliness for so long, do not realize how unconnected they have become, and perhaps this is what allows them to shift to 1Q84…
I won’t say too much, but it is a long book, filled with subtleties and nuance. Sometimes the pace can be slow. But for one who would enjoy a deeply introspective query into what it means to live our modern life, flavored by a touch of Kafkaesque surrealism, I can think of no better book to recommend.