Format: Paperback
Language: English [translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin & Philip Gabriel]
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 9780099578079
Pages: 1318
Price: INR 599

It’s a Barnum and Bailey world,
Just as phony as it can be,

There is no point denying that ‘1Q84′ by Haruki Murakami is a work of indulgence. However, there are indeed a lot of things that strike as ‘phony’ in the alternate reality that comprises 9 months of the year 1Q84. By the time I reached the end of this big fat book, I couldn’t help but feel an impending sense of disappointment – for a book that was supposed to be his “long-awaited magnum opus” is nowhere near justifying the phrase.

1Q84′ is the story of Tengo & Aomame – two people who seem to have formed a connection at the age of ten & even twenty years later, they are unable to keep each other out of their thoughts. The title suggests clearly that the story tips its hat to George Orwell‘s dystopian classic “1984” & it does have a number of vague references throughout the book, none more so than the unconvincing love story of our protagonists – similar to that of Winston & Julia’s in Orwell‘s novel. However, one might be willing to condone that given it’s just an homage & Murakami‘s characters live in a surrealistic world, where the rules of the real world do not apply.

There are quite a few problems that plague this book throughout & the biggest of them is over-elaboration. But that must be imperative in a book of over 1000 pages, you might think? Yes, it is. Perhaps it might be to some extent when the story is told from a point-of-view narrative of two or three main characters, but Murakami goes completely overboard with that. No one needs a 24×7 insight into the mind of a person, no matter how interesting he or she is.

Also, when we are talking about elaboration, perhaps Murakami could’ve afforded a proper explanation in a few of those many pages for dispensing with a few characters when required than them being “irretrievably lost“, disappearing for once & for all or killed in “mysterious circumstances” with no clue as to how the murder was committed. “Use your brains dummy, you’re reading Murakami“, apparently said no one.

And finally we come to the Little People. Now this bunch of magical creatures & a religious group called Sakigake (and maybe even Tengo’s editor Komatsu) serve as Big Brother-like figures in the plot, but unlike the original Big Brother their presence never looms large in the background, always shadowing the actions of our protagonists. Even the tenacious private investigator Ushikawa – whose character gains more traction in the final book – only raises the thrill quotient a little bit without actually terrifying the reader. Honestly, how can one be awed one bit by the so-called Little People when all they say most of the time when they make an appearance is “ho, ho”?

But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me.

Believe me Murakami san, I tried really hard to believe in you. And the fact that I finished this tome is the biggest proof of that. The story did have its moments (and they were wonderful, you bet) but I came very close to losing that faith when Book Three seemed to drag on endlessly at times. When you were being so enigmatic & leaving things open to interpretation, I really tried to recreate my own version of events but eventually it was tiring & some of it was simply not worth the hassle.

That being said, the plot though lacking in crispness was for most parts engaging & a good amount of praise must be accorded to a memorable cast of characters (esp. the protagonists, Fuka-Eri, Komatsu, the Leader, the Dowager & Tamaru) I really cared about. And as far the ending is concerned, it couldn’t have come full circle any better – too bad I can’t say that about some other parts of the story.

1Q84′ might be Haruki Murakami‘s most magnitudinous work literally, but it certainly doesn’t stand high on the scale of literary magnitude compared to some of his earlier works like ‘Kafka on the Shore’. Recommended only for fans of the author – read it when you have a lot of time to spare & I just hope that when you eventually hit the ground after falling through the endless rabbit hole, the loud thud of disappointment doesn’t hurt too much.

Rating: 6.5/10

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