Cover of Book 1
|Publication date||May 29, 2009|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|Preceded by||After Dark|
1Q84 (One Q Eighty-Four or ichi-kew-hachi-yon) is a 2009 novel by Haruki Murakami, the first two volumes of which have been published in Japan. The third volume is scheduled for release in April 2010. The novel quickly became a sensation, with its first printing selling out the day it was released, and reaching sales of one million within a month. The English edition of the first two volumes, translated by Jay Rubin, will be released in North America and the United Kingdom in September 2011, and Philip Gabriel's translation of the third volume will follow after that.
Prior to the 1Q84's publication, Murakami stated that he would not reveal anything about the book, following criticism that leaks had diminished his previous books' novelty. 1Q84 was noted for heavy advance orders despite this secrecy.
The title is a play on the Japanese pronunciation of the year 1984. The letter Q and the Japanese number 9 (typically romanized as "kyū," but as "kew" on the book's Japanese cover, shown at right) are homophones, which are often used in Japanese wordplay. This is a reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Before the book's release, one theory about the title's meaning suggested that it could be a reference to The True Story of Ah Q, a novella by Lu Xun, whose works are said to have influenced Murakami. The plot of the book makes clear, however, that the title is an allusion to Orwell's classic novel. One of the characters uses 1Q84 as the name of the parallel world into which she believes she has stumbled, noting that the Q stands for "question mark."
One review described 1Q84 as a "complex and surreal narrative" which "shifts back and forth between tales of two characters, a man and a woman, who are searching for each other." It tackles themes of murder, history, cult religion, violence, family ties and love.
Aomame (青豆): one of the two point-of-view characters of the novel, Aomame is a thirty year old woman working as part of an enigmatic organization for which she commits carefully selected murders. Her name means "green bean."
Tengo (天吾): the second of the novel's point-of-view characters, he is an unpublished novelist who works as a math tutor at a cram school. His mother died when he was very young; his earliest memory is of his mother in bed with a man who was not Tengo's father. His father worked for NHK going door-to-door collecting the network's reception fee, and he used to make Tengo go with him every Sunday.
Komatsu (小松): A 45-year-old editor of a publishing company. He lives his daily life on his own schedule, seemingly oblivious to the rhythms of people around him, and often calls Tengo in the middle of the night. Although Komatsu enjoys a good professional reputation for his competence, he is not seen to be an amicable person. Little is known about his private life beyond rumors.
Fukaeri (ふかえり): a slight but striking 17-year-old high school student whose manuscript, Kūki Sanagi (空気さなぎ, Air Chrysalis), is entered in a literary contest. She is extremely reticent, with an unusual, abrupt way of speaking, and what seems to be an apathetic view of life. She also suffers from dyslexia and struggles in school.
The events of the story take place in 1984, with the first volume set between April and June, and the second between July and September.
The narrative is composed of two storylines that alternate by chapter. The book opens with Aomame's perspective as she catches a taxi in Tokyo on her way to a work assignment, noticing that Janáček's Sinfonietta is playing on the radio. When the taxi gets stuck in a traffic jam on the expressway, the driver suggests that she get out of the car and climb down an emergency escape in order to make her important meeting. Aomame makes her way to a hotel in Shibuya, where she poses as a hotel attendant in order to assassinate a hotel guest. She performs the murder with a tool that leaves almost no trace on its victim, leading investigators to conclude that he died a natural death.
As the story unfolds, Aomame has several bizarre experiences, including a string of memories that do not line up with the archives of major newspapers. One of them concerns a group of extremists who are engaged in a standoff with police in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. Upon reading these articles, she concludes that she must be living in an alternate reality, and suspects that she entered it about the time she heard Sinfonietta on the radio.
The second chapter introduces Tengo, whose mentor Komatsu asks him to rewrite an awkwardly-written but otherwise promising manuscript that had been entered in a literary contest. Komatsu wants to submit the novel to a prestigious literary agency and promote its author as a new literary prodigy. Tengo has reservations about rewriting another author's work, especially that of a high school student. He agrees to do so only upon meeting the original writer, who goes by the strange name "Fukaeri," and asking her permission. Fukaeri, however, seems to care very little what happens to the manuscript, telling Tengo to do as he likes with it.
Soon it becomes clear that Fukaeri, who is dyslexic, neither wrote manuscript on her own nor did she submit it to the contest herself. Tengo's discomfort with the project deepens upon finding out other people must be involved. To address his concerns, Fukaeri takes Tengo to meet her guardian, a man called Ebisuno-sensei (戎野先生), or simply sensei to Fukaeri. Here Tengo learns that Fukaeri's parents were members of an commune called Takashima (タカシマ). Her father, Tamotsu Fukada (深田保) was Ebisuno's friend and colleague, but they did not see eye-to-eye on this subject. Fukada thought of Takashima as a utopia; Ebisuno, however, describes the commune as a place where people were turned into unthinking robots, saying that it was like something out of the world of George Orwell's novel. Fukaeri, whom Ebisuno-sensei calls Eri (エリ), was only a small child at the time; she sits quietly through the discussion, noting only that Takashima was fun.
In 1974, Fukada and 30 members founded a new commune called Sakigake (さきがけ). The young members of the commune work hard under Fukada's leadership, but eventually disagreements split the commune into two factions, and the more radical form a new commune called Akebono (あけぼの), which eventually has a gunfight with police near Lake Motosu (本栖湖) in Yamanashi Prefecture.
One day, Fukaeri appears on Ebisuno-sensei's doorstep. She does not speak and will not explain what happened to her. When Ebisuno attempts to contact Fukada at Sakigake, he is told that he is unavailable. Ebisuno thereby becomes Fukaeri's guardian, and by the time of 1Q84's present, they have not heard from her parents for seven years, leading Ebisuno to fear the worst.
It is while living with Ebisuno that Fukaeri composes her story, Kūki Sanagi. Unable to write it herself, she tells it to Azami (アザミ), Ebisuno's daughter. The story is about a girl's life in commune, where she met a group of dwarfs, whom Fukaeri refers to as "Little People (リトル・ピープル)".