Monday, March 4, 2013

Review: "1Q84" by Haruki Murakami

Here is a little example of how much I love this man's work:

That is six Murakamis on one of my bookshelves. I've read them all and loved them all. And having typed that, it grieves my heart to admit that I was not thrilled with the latest, "1Q84".
I thought the story itself was quite decent. I think majority of people who read Murakami do so mostly for his skill of combining very realistic and very magical worlds, in a very subtle way. Somehow, even his magical worlds feel realistic - strange. Once again there are kind of parallel worlds, one (which takes place in year 1984) where there is one moon in the sky, and the other one (1Q84) where the big moon has a little companion. What a cute thought. Hasn't anyone really ever thought that the moon might get bored all alone.
I was happy that the number of characters was kept very modest. The characters were odd, felt troubled and lonely - again, no surprise there whatsoever. Some of them were really spooky (Aomame); Tengo felt like "just another lonely and empty inside Murakami male character". Ushikawa was a piece of more interesting work, a clever man with hideous appearance, but his role in the story remained questionable.
All in all, I would have been happy to rate it not the best, but just another good read from Murakami. But I can't. And here is why.
First of all, this book is long - nearly 1200 pages. This itself would be fine (afterall I dig chunksters very much), but "1Q84" is definitely and most certainly needlessly long. I don't even remember how many times I said, during reading, to my boyfriend that this one is in desperate need for an editor. I would say, about 1/3 of the novel could have been chopped off, and it would only have got better. What happened there - I don't know. I do hope editors are still valued in book business. I got this book in three parts, not just one big chunk - first one went super fast, but once I was in the second, somewhere in the middle, I really thought of dropping it (the horror! dropping a Murakami!). The third part got better again, but damage was already done by this point.

Secondly, the writing felt sloppy. I would consider putting part of blame on the factors of translation, but then again, Jay Rubin is basically Murakami's body-translator, I have appreciated his work previously and I haven't got a good reason to suspect that he is the problem in this case. The problem is that given Murakami's laconic and simple descriptive style, if it doesn't get a good edit, it gets annoying really fast. So in a way the thing that he does good, can also end up easily very bad. I held my head in agony at times over all the repetitions and swore, that if I have to read the trio of words "NHK fee collector" one more time, something's gonna go bad.
There's a new novel to be published in Japan already in April. I really hope that Mr Murakami has hired a good editor for this one.

Oo, this is so accurate. Food, classical music, cats... :)
Lent from here.


  1. O my heavens. 1200 pages! I don't think I could have finished a 1200 page book that I didn't like very much. I'm in awe that you actually soldiered through this whole book!

    And I do like chunky books -- one of my favorite series is Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and there are many of them and they are LONG, but I find those books addictive and impulsively readable!

    1. Oops -- I meant compulsively readable! lol

    2. Hehe impulsively readable :) I think if it was some random book I would have dropped it, but you know, if it's your favourite author... kept hoping it to get better. And I so want to read Outlander books too, very soon.

  2. Thanks for the great review. I haven't read anything by this author before- but it sounds like most of their books are excellent. I am impressed that you kept reading it even when you weren't thrilled with it!


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jess. I wouldn't definitely recommend this novel as someone's first foray into Murakami's writing. Also, I have read a lot more positive reviews on 1Q84 than my own experience was, so it's definitely not a bad book. My expectations were simply high.

  3. My wife read it an loved it. I have enjoyed reading him in the past but not sure I can commit to reading 1200 pages of Murakami at this stage of my life. Thanks for the review!


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