Tuesday, February 21, 2012

1Q84: A not-so-literary review

"Robbing people of their actual history is the same as robbing them of part of themselves. It's a crime... Our memory is made up of our individual memories and our collective memories. The two are intimately linked. And history is our collective memory. If our collective memory is taken from us--is rewritten--we lose the ability to sustain our true selves."

Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

I started reading 1Q84 a couple of weeks ago. I'm about a quarter of the way through. Reviews of the book so far have been very mixed; some think it is possibly Murakami's best work; others think it is an all-over-the-place piece of work that only Murakami can get away with pulling off (in a not-so-good kind of way).

I happen to fall in the former camp. I really think the story so far is mind-blowing. As is often the case with many of my favorite works, I feel that the experience of reading 1Q84 so far is kind of like peeling an onion: What the story is about isn't revealed to you right away; rather, the reader has to kind of go along with the flow, and "peel off" the unraveling layers of the story progressively. Along the way, one's sense of reality gets upended almost without one's being aware of it: As I've mentioned in a previous post somewhere, Murakami's writing can be characterized as being yogic without the woo. Oh, and speaking of yogic: Not to give away the story or anything, but one of the major antagonists in the novel seems to be this quasi-religious cult leader who does some really unsavory things to people, and who somehow has the absolute unquestioning trust of his followers... does this mirror something that is happening in the real-life yoga world right now, or is it just me? :-)

I guess this post isn't so much a review of the book as it is an unabashed recommendation: Go read it! It's very long (almost a thousand pages), but from what I have been reading of it so far, it's totally worth the investment of time and reading effort.


  1. Hey Nobel, so if one were to start reading Haruki Murakami, would you have them start with this book or an earlier book? I have a few on my shelf (borrowed from the library), tried to start his book of short stories but they are, so far, a bit poignant and sad and... pointless? Haven't gotten far enough in yet to discern, so forgive my ignorance.

    1. Yes, I also get the sense that many of his short stories are a bit underdeveloped; I think many of them are "sketches" upon which he bases subsequent novels.

      Maybe start with "The Windup Bird Chronicle". That is also a long novel, though not as long as 1Q84. I think if you like that one, you will probably like 1Q84.