after 1Q84

used bookstore

“You can’t easily generalize about pain. Each kind of pain has its own characteristics. To rephrase Tolstoy’s famous line, all happiness is alike, but each pain is painful in its own way.”
-- Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

I finished reading 1Q84 a couple of weeks ago, all 925 pages of it, and while I've read another novel since then, I still find myself going back to the world of 1Q84. Perhaps because it is such a heavy book and I carried it with me everywhere for more than a month, reading it every night before I go to bed, perhaps because of its repetitive writing style, the perceptions created by the author has somehow manifested themselves in the way I see things, or perhaps because I connected with its characters, I just know that I had to write something about this book.

Reading 1Q84 was like falling into a rabbit hole. At first I tried to make sense of what is going on but I soon realize that there really is no use of trying to find logic in the surreal. How do you explain a world with two moons? Or little people coming out of a dead goat's mouth? You don't. You simply allow yourself to be carried away by it. For despite the bizarre circumstances and the strangeness of it all, there is still a shared reality, something that each reader can identify and relate to, a feeling, a memory, a longing.

There are so many themes in the novel but the one that really touched me was the characters' feeling of alienation and loneliness, so real that you can see yourself in those moments when you also felt so alone, reaching out for something and you don't quiet know what that something is. Whether it was Aomame sitting by the balcony looking at the empty playground every evening, Tengo reading to his estranged and comatose father in a seaside hospital, or Uchikawa spending all of his day taking pictures of people going in and out of an apartment building, something about these mundane details resonated in me. So much so that as soon as I finished reading the book, I had this sudden urge to take a long train ride somewhere. One where I can travel overnight and watch the sunrise from the window.

I did end up taking an hour train ride to see one of my best friends that evening. Somewhere between my city and his, the rain started falling and as I looked from the window, trying to make out the shapes of the buildings and lights outside, it occurred to me that maybe this is what good fiction is all about. Constructing your own meaning from something that is not real and meditating on it in your everyday life. If so, then 1Q84 has certainly succeeded in doing that and more.

Has any of you read 1Q84? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Photo taken by me, via iPhone Instagram


  1. well you've certainly made me want to read it. i've only read one murakami and enjoyed it but wasn't bowled over by it. i'd love to try another one and this one sounds just the thing.

    don't you just love when i book permeates your everyday life?

  2. I've been preparing myself to read it next--was even thinking about it today as I finished my latest book. I know I'll totally get lost in it and can't wait. But I'm still preparing myself time-wise for its consumption :) Will definitely have to go buy it this week.

  3. Odessa, I haven't read it yet, but now I'm so curious after reading your post. Thanks again for another great book indication.

  4. I read it, too, and not long ago. I had to finish it in three weeks due to the library loan. I adored it. I had never read Murakami, and was prepared by another friend to sift through strange jazz lines that riffed on themselves, and every other thing.

    I was startled by the clarity of his vision, and the surreal made absolute sense. (I have read lots of sci-fi in the past, as well as fantasy, and love magic surrealism of Marquez and Allende and others -- so maybe that's why the oddness didn't phase me.)

    I think you are right about the isolation, and the power of Murakami's words to make worlds relatable out of so much oddness.

    (Hi!!!! It's been a while, but I still read you in my Reader!!)