1Q84 Book Two

(This follows my review of Book One)

Book One of 1Q84 ended with the line:

“With his eyes closed, Tengo could not be sure which world he belonged to.”

This follows a discussion with his lover about the moon after he tells her that the novel he is writing is set in a world with two moons, an idea he has borrowed from Air Chrysalis. Two moons in the sky have already been identified by Aomame as a facet of 1Q84:

“Overhead, the two moons worked together to bathe the world in a strange light.”

In Book Two, remembering again the one time they have met, Tengo pictures

“…the moon – standing out against the sky, about three quarters full…Like him, Aomame was staring at the moon in broad daylight, still gripping his hand, her face deadly serious.”

When he opens his eyes, he sees “another moon in the sky”:

“The moon was as taciturn as ever. But it was no longer alone.”

This occurs shortly after he decides to look for Aomame, and, although Fuka-Eri suggests that his perception of the two moons is related only to writing Air Chrysalis with her, it seems also to represent his connection with the woman he has always loved but previously made no effort to locate. “What kind of reality mimics fictional creations?” Tengo asks himself, referencing his own writing. But Murakami keeps returning to the song Paper Moon, where the paper moon of the title is made real by love and belief. 1Q84 is the world where Tengo and Aomame are connected by story: in Book One this was largely structural, their two narratives running side by side; in Book Two their stories become increasingly entangled.

1Q84, therefore, is, above all, a love story, and that love becomes central to the action in Book Two. While Tengo’s narrative becomes backward looking – a visit to his dying father, a reunion with Fuka-Eri – and esoteric – an extended interlude based on a story he reads, Aomame’s takes on the tenor of a thriller as she prepares to kill the cult leader Fukado. Murakami’s ambiguous attitude towards the cult (one might say, towards everything) is demonstrated when Fukado not only confirms his more than human qualities, but also asks Aomame to kill him – he, too, is being used by the Little People and his death will leave them without a host. He also explains that, although this would mean that they would hunt her down and kill her, it would keep Tengo safe, allowing her to sacrifice herself for him.

How well you take all this may depend not only on your tolerance of the more fantastical elements, but also how you feel about mixing sex with children. It’s true that we discover that Fukado did not rape his daughter, but that he had intercourse with her Dohta, a shadow self created in an air chrysalis by the Little People – and that he was unable to move at the time. We see the same thing happen to Tengo at the hands (or, more accurately, loins) of Fuka-Eri (who becomes an increasingly creepy character in this Book). Murakami goes out of his way, however, to emphasise her youth during their encounter:

“It seemed inconceivable that his adult penis could penetrate her small newly made vagina.”

He also links it to Tengo’s memory of Aomame. In his own mind, Tengo associates this with a sexual awakening:

“In his memory, Aomame remained a skinny little girl without breasts, but he was able to bring himself to ejaculation with the thought of her in gym clothes.”

Though this physical attraction fades fro Tengo, it is noticeable how frequently Aomame, in the other narrative, refers to the smallness of her breasts, refusing to have them enlarged when she has the opportunity. When Tengo discovers an air chrysalis waiting for him on his father’s bed, it is the ten-year-old Aomame who is inside.

If you’re wondering whether it all makes sense, the answer is probably that it doesn’t matter. 1Q84 isn’t ‘metaphorical’ or ‘symbolic’. Its over-riding concern seems to be with making a meaningful connection between two people. Both Aomame and Tengo lived in solipsistic worlds, estranged from their parents and without close friends. Most other characters in the novel are equally isolated. The cult itself is an example of retreating into a private world; as, one might argue, is the novel itself. The dynamic of the dual narrative is union, and it is the question of whether Aomame and Tengo can find each other that is the novel’s main driving force.

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