#80 review: 1Q84




Translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel

924 p.

Published by Knopf in October 2011


This book counts for


I enjoyed very much After Dark and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, so when I heard that this life opus was coming out, I requested it very early on from my public library, the best ever, and I got it THE DAY IT WAS RELEASED IN BOOKSTORES!

It was really thrilling to be able to dive into it right away, and what a dive it was!

I enjoy long books, but it’s probably the first book of over 900 pages when I never felt bored one line or thought the author could have made it shorter; actually, I was sad it ended, and I could have gone on many more pages. It does seem to me in fact that a sequel would be great.
12/8/21 update: I was actually quite upset a few years later when I learned that the translator had actually skipped some passages!! So it IS longer (in the Japanese).

And it is a work in translation, and translated by 2 people! Not sure how they did it, it felt the same style all over, and so fluid, it did not “stink translation”, as I sometimes say. OK I don’t read Japanese, but still, this seems to be really well done. Congratulations to fellow translators!
Except for skipping pages!!

So what is so good about this book? First, if you are familiar with Murakami, you have to expect the unexpected, some weirdness here and there; interestingly, this weirdness transpires early on in faces descriptions: eyes, ears, unusual facial characteristics.

As Aomame slips into… into what? another world? another dimension? lots of things around her happen to contain some elements of weirdness, but ever so slightly, so that you never really know if you are in the “real” world or not. One sign though is the presence of two moons. Since I opened 1Q84, I have caught myself checking how many moons were up there…
I think Murakami is for me the perfect example of magical realism.

So you could consider this novel as a reflection on what’s really normal in our lives, in our relationships, in the world around us.

But deeper, this is also a love story; not a usual one of course, as you will need to wait for the last chapter to see how it evolves between Tengo and Aomame.
What’s really interesting is that it shows how both characters are lead to each other 20 years after a brief encounter. This was particularly interesting to me now that having accumulated a few years behind me, I marvel at how long threads in my life lead me to where I am right now, and lead me to meet my own Tengo.

For most of the book, the story is told by alternating a chapter on Aomame and one on Tengo, which makes it even more suspenseful; I had to fight many a times the temptation to skip a chapter to follow a character, especially as Murakami stops a chapter right before something big, and you really want to know what happens next.

There are a lot of dialogues, and also beautiful descriptions and images. I regret not taking time to write down those as I read along. Uncanny and savory images.

By the way, I happened to read Lilith by George MacDonald just a bit before and it struck me that in both works, we find a great role given to the moon and to “little people of the forest”. I have not read anything about a possible influence. What do you think?

The New York Times review and others have been really tough against 1Q84, but please ignore them and give it a try yourself: this is a beautifully written book, a very rich story, with dystopian, romance, thriller elements, reflection on life and poetry. Where else can you find all these together except in a masterpiece?


The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.
As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.
A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s—1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.


Haruki Murakami (村上 春樹 Murakami Haruki, born January 12, 1949) is a Japanese writer and translator. His works of fiction and non-fiction have garnered him critical acclaim and numerous awards, including the Franz Kafka Prize and Jerusalem Prize among others. He is considered an important figure in postmodern literature. The Guardian praised him as “among the world’s greatest living novelists” for his works and achievements. [wikipedia]



36 thoughts on “#80 review: 1Q84

  1. It says a lot about the translators’ talent that you were never bored with this huge book. It’s been years since I’ve read Murakami. I can’t wait to read this. Great review.


  2. I can believe that Murkami can easily keep you turning pages for over 900 of them. Your review makes me want to go back and add to my review of After Dark that Murakami is also very good at creating suspense. You want to know what happpens next. That’s not an easy thing to do. I’ll have to check this out.


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  5. I enjoyed ‘1Q84’, but I definitely wouldn’t say it’s his best work (or my favourite!). There are too many issues with repetition and a slow middle section for that. However, I did enjoy it a lot, and I hope to reread it soon to give myself another view of the book 🙂

    I am also currently reviewing it on my blog; the first two reviews are already out, and the third part will be out in a few days (if you want to have a look!).


    • Thanks Tony for finding me and leaving a comment. I enjoy very much your blog and the style of your reviews. Interestingly, repetitions did not bother me in this book, I thought they fit well with the context of Tengo trying to follow the thread of his old memory of Aomame and trying to follow that thread to find her, and I don’t remember a mn finding things slow. On another blog I follow, there were som many STRONG reactions, positive and negative, to this book. Interesting indeed


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  16. Great review, Emma! I think you’ve sold me to try this one however long. I can accept some weird elements if it is truly a love story. You deserve much credit for appreciating its vibrant, original beauty when many of the critics were not yet on board! Thanks!


    • It is so well written, and seriously, it could have been longer, I would not have minded. I was furious when I read later that actually it IS longer in Japanese – apparently the translators skipped some parts. Terrible. If I did that as a literary translator, my clients would NOT be happy!!!


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  20. Nice review! I agree with you on the alternating chapters at least! I did like this structure and I confess I did skip some to return to them later and read another point of view. It is interesting what you say about 1Q84 and Lilith by George MacDonald. I keep thinking what were the inspiration of Murakami when he created the Little People and the whole otherworldly set-up. I am sure it must have been some folklore. As I see from Lilith’s synopsis, it also has parallel universes, that is curious.


    • I never really read about MacDonald inspiring him, but some parallel elements between them are really uncanny. I highly encourage you to try Lilith, you will see also how topics in Tolkien and CS Lewis come from him, from this book among others.


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