Haruki Murakami – 1Q84, volume III

The final character and concept chart for 1Q84 is below.  Most noticeable about this one is the addition of a new branch from the title—Ushikawa gets his own distinct branch as the third volume does not alternate between Aomame and Tengo, but cycles through Ushikawa, Aomame, and Tengo until the final chapter.

This addition is necessary in order to show the investigative aspect of the final events, but there are drawbacks.  With three separate narratives running, the narrator rather quickly loses track of their relation to each other as each character’s story is told, each episode confined to the pre-determined chapter length limit.  As a result, events are related out of order and, rather than giving the effect that this was intentional, it comes off as rather clumsy.  Instead of being Pulp Fiction or 21 Grams, it’s more like a child’s ghost story or a poorly-told joke.For example, when Tengo returns home he wanders the neighborhood in chapter 15 and revisits the park where he first noticed the moons, but Aomame does not come out to him.  In chapter 17, we learn that the reason that Aomame missed him was that she was taking a call, and that Ushikawa had in fact been following Tengo.  Then, in chapter 19, we follow Ushikawa’s narrative as he follows Tengo.  The passage in chapter 17 is exceptionally clumsy, as Murakami completely abandons the focalized style used literally everywhere else in the novel to speculate about this event, but in language that would be far better suited to the episode’s conclusion, not the midpoint:

At this point, a number of “if”s came to mind.  If Tamaru had hung up a little earlier, if Aomame hadn’t made cocoa hole mulling over things, she would have seen Tengo, on top of the slide, gazing up at the sky. She would have raced out of the room, and they would have been reunited after twenty years.

If that had happened, however, Ushikawa, who had been tailing Tengo, would have noticed that this was Aomame, would have figured out where she lived, and would have immediately informed the duo from Sakigake.

So it’s hard to say if Aomame’s not seeing Tengo at this point was an unfortunate or fortunate occurrence.    (780)

This departure is much more proper for a retrospective, yet it’s used before we even see the final perspective on the event.  A better order would be Tengo, Ushikawa, then Aomame, and, even more importantly, the chapters should be successive to build the tension and suspense.

There are two major issues with this: first of all, the reader quickly loses track of when events happen.  This was evident in volume II as well, as Aomame’s fateful night with Leader was spread over several chapters, yet Tengo’s narrative mentioned days and weeks passing by with few events of interest.  (This actually could work if the two characters were in different timelines, i.e., if Tengo were in 1984 and Aomame in 1Q84, but all other indication is that they have always been in the same timeline.)  Second of all, the prose gets rather tedious, especially in Ushikawa’s section, as we read the focalized thoughts of a character ignorant of what’s going on.  It seems unnecessary for Murakami to relate the extent of Ushikawa’s bewilderment at Tengo’s behavior because we already know what’s going to happen and why—all his “maybe”s read like a bit of a drag.  If Ushikawa’s chapter were before Aomame’s and immediatly following Tengo’s, then we would share in his puzzlement and wonder if he were to spot Aomame, and then when the answers are finally revealed in Aomame’s chapter, the payoff would be greater.  As it stands, it’s a bit of a mess that the more-or-less uniform chapter lengths hardly compensate for.

For my final thoughts, I’ll say that what little press I’ve read related to it has been too harsh.  Contrary to what I was expecting, it was a very quick read, and for the most part enjoyable.  I’m not sure it lived up to the hype surrounding it, but it was still not a let-down.  A few weak metaphors and less-than-perfect images may pop up here and there, but by-and-large a well-rounded, uniform piece.  I’d place it slightly lower than Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

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