A black cat, two moons and a host of nocturnal little people populate Haruki Murakami’s new novel. But has he become more conventional?
HARUKI MURAKAMI filches from George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” for the title of his new novel, “1Q84”, making a play on kyu, the Japanese word for nine, by transposing the letter “Q” for the number “9”. Significantly, the action also takes place over the last nine months of 1984. But it would be a mistake to conclude from this that Japan’s magical postmodernist has spent nearly 1,000 pages writing about a dystopian world where couples make love in an ash glade, hardly daring to speak because of the all-listening microphones in the trees. Mr Murakami’s main influence here is not so much Orwell as Philip Pullman; his “1Q84” less a stairway to another world than a heave-ho into a whole new universe.
Sitting in a taxi on the gridlocked elevated Metropolitan Expressway in Tokyo, Aomame, the skinny heroine with asymmetric breasts (her name means “green peas”), is catapulted into action when she hears Janacek’s “Sinfonietta” on the radio. Her cabbie tells her she can beat the traffic by hopping out of the car and down an emergency staircase at the next exit. He warns her that things will not be the same. But it is only when Aomame notices that the policemen have swapped their holstered revolvers for bulky semi-automatic weapons that she realises she has entered a parallel universe.
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