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Cover of Book 1
AuthorHaruki Murakami
TranslatorJay Rubin
Philip Gabriel
GenreAlternate history, parallel worlds
Publication date
May 29, 2009 (Books 1 and 2)
April 16, 2010 (Book 3)
Published in English
October 25, 2011
Media typePrint (hardcover)
United States edition of 1Q84, first published in the United States in 2011 by Knopf.

1Q84 (いちきゅうはちよん, Ichi-Kyū-Hachi-Yon, stylized in the Japanese cover as "ichi-kew-hachi-yon") is a novel written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, first published in three volumes in Japan in 2009–10.[1] It covers a fictionalized year of 1984 in parallel with a "real" one. The novel is a story of how a woman named Aomame begins to notice strange changes occurring in the world. She is quickly caught up in a plot involving Sakigake, a religious cult, and her childhood love, Tengo, and embarks on a journey to discover what is "real".

The novel's first printing sold out on the day it was released and sales reached a million within a month.[2] The English-language edition of all three volumes, with the first two volumes translated by Jay Rubin and the third by Philip Gabriel, was released in North America and the United Kingdom on October 25, 2011.[3][4][5][6] An excerpt from the novel appeared in the September 5, 2011 issue of The New Yorker magazine as "Town of Cats".[7] The first chapter of 1Q84 had also been read as an excerpt in the Selected Shorts series at Symphony Space in New York.

While well received in Japan, 1Q84 was met with mixed reviews from international critics, who condemned the novel's excessive repetition, clichéd writing, clumsy styling and unyielding plot.[8] Literary Review nominated one excerpt from the book for its annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award.[9][10]

Plot summary[edit]

The events of 1Q84 take place in Tokyo during a fictionalized year of 1984, with the first volume set between April and June, the second between July and September, and the third between October and December.

The book opens with a woman named Aomame (青豆) as she rides a taxi to a work assignment. She hears the Sinfonietta by Leoš Janáček playing on the radio and immediately recognizes it, somehow having detailed knowledge of its history and context. When the taxi gets stuck in a traffic jam on the Shibuya Route of the Shuto Expressway, the driver suggests she climb down an emergency escape to reach her meeting, warning her that it might change the very nature of reality. Aomame follows the driver's advice. Eventually, Aomame makes her way to a hotel in Shibuya and poses as an attendant in order to kill a guest. She performs the murder with an ice pick that leaves no trace on its victim. It is revealed that Aomame's job is to kill men who have committed domestic violence.

Aomame starts to notice new details about the world that are subtly different. For instance, she notices police officers carrying semi-automatic pistols, having previously carried revolvers. Aomame checks the archives of major newspapers and finds several recent news stories of which she has no recollection. One of these concerns a group of extremists who had a stand-off with police in the mountains of Yamanashi. She concludes she must be living in an alternative reality, which she calls "1Q84," and suspects she entered it upon hearing the Sinfonietta.

The novel's other main character, Tengo Kawana (川奈天吾), is introduced. Tengo is a writer and teacher of mathematics at a cram school. Komatsu (小松), Tengo's editor and mentor, asks him to rewrite Air Chrysalis (空気さなぎ), an awkwardly written but promising manuscript by a 17-year-old girl named Eriko Fukada, under the pseudonym "Fuka-Eri (ふかえり)." Komatsu wants to submit the novel for a prize and promote its author as a child prodigy. Tengo has reservations, and wishes to meet with Fuka-Eri and ask for her permission. Once the two meet, Fuka-Eri tells Tengo to do as he likes with the manuscript.

Soon it becomes clear that Fuka-Eri, who is dyslexic, did not write the manuscript on her own. Tengo's discomfort with the project deepens; to address his concerns, Fuka-Eri takes Tengo to meet her current guardian, Ebisuno-sensei (戎野先生), or simply "Sensei" to Fuka-Eri. Tengo learns that Fuka-Eri's parents were members of a commune called "Takashima" (タカシマ). Her father, Tamotsu Fukada (深田保) was Ebisuno's former friend and colleague. Fukada thought of Takashima as a utopia; Ebisuno found it turned people into unthinking robots. Fuka-Eri, or "Eri" (エリ) to Ebisuno, was only a child at the time.

In 1974, Fukada founded a new commune called "Sakigake" (さきがけ). Eventually, disagreements led a radical faction of Sakigake to form a new commune called "Akebono" (あけぼの). The Akebono commune eventually had a gunfight with police near Lake Motosu (本栖湖) in Yamanashi. Shortly after, Fuka-Eri appeared on Ebisuno's doorstep, unable to speak. Ebisuno failed to contact her father, and thereby became her guardian; neither have heard from her parents for seven years.

While living with Ebisuno, Fuka-Eri composes Air Chrysalis by dictating it to Azami (アザミ), Ebisuno's daughter. The story is about a girl's life in a commune, where she met a group of mystical beings known as "Little People" (リトル・ピープル).[11] Tengo begins to suspect the events described in the novel actually happened.

Meanwhile, Aomame recovers psychologically from her killing of the hotel guest. It is revealed that her employer is an older wealthy woman referred to as the Dowager (女主人).

Aomame is sexually unfettered, and sometimes releases stress by picking up older men in singles bars. During one of these outings, she meets Ayumi (あゆみ), a likeminded policewoman, and they become fast friends. One day, Aomame learns that Ayumi had been strangled to death in a hotel.

The Dowager introduces Aomame to a 10-year-old girl named Tsubasa (つばさ), who she wishes to adopt. Tsubasa and her parents have been involved with Sakigake. Tsubasa has been forcefully abused by the cult leader, known only as "The Leader". As Tsubasa sleeps in the Dowager's safe house, the "Little People" mentioned in Air Chrysalis appear from Tsubasa's mouth and begin creating a cocoon. Tsubasa mysteriously disappears from the safehouse, never to return.

The Dowager researches Sakigake. In addition to Tsubasa, other prepubescent girls had been sexually abused there. The Dowager asks Aomame to murder the Leader. Aomame meets with the Leader, who is, in fact, Tamotsu Fukada. A physically enormous person with muscle problems that cause him chronic, severe pain, he reveals that he has powers like telekinesis, and has dealings with the "Little People". Knowing that Aomame was sent to kill him, Fukada strikes a deal with her: she will kill him and he will protect Tengo from harm. After a long conversation with the Leader, Aomame kills him and goes into hiding at a prearranged location set up by the Dowager and Tamaru (たまる), her bodyguard.

Aomame and Tengo's parallel worlds begin to draw closer to each other. Tengo is pursued by a private investigator, Ushikawa (うしかわ), who was hired by Sakigake. He follows Tengo to gather information on Air Chrysalis. Following the Leader's murder, Ushikawa is also ordered to find Aomame. The novel begins to follow Ushikawa, once a lawyer who made a good living representing criminals. He got into legal trouble and had to abandon his career. His wife and two daughters left him, and ever since he has worked as a private detective.

Ushikawa focuses on Tengo, Aomame, and the Dowager as suspects in his investigation. He decides to stake out Tengo's apartment to find information on Aomame. He rents a room in the apartment building and sets up a camera to take pictures of the residents. He witnesses Fuka-Eri, who has been hiding at Tengo's apartment, entering the building. Fuka-Eri notices Ushikawa's presence and takes off. Ushikawa later sees Tengo return after a visit to his dying father. Finally, Ushikawa spots Aomame leaving the building after she herself followed Ushikawa there in order to find Tengo.

Before he can report to Sakigake, Tamaru sneaks into Ushikawa's room and interrogates the detective. Tamaru finds that Ushikawa knows too much, and kills him. Tamaru then phones Ushikawa's contact at Sakigake and has them recover the detective's body.

Aomame and Tengo eventually find each other via Ushikawa's investigation and with Tamaru's help. They were once childhood classmates, though they had no relationship outside of a single classroom moment where Aomame tightly grasped Tengo's hand. That moment signified a turning point in both Aomame's and Tengo's lives, and they retained a fundamental love for each other. After 20 years, Aomame and Tengo meet again, both pursued by Ushikawa and Sakigake. They manage to make it out of the strange world of "1Q84", which has two visible moons, into a new reality that they assume is their original world, though there are small indications that it is not. The novel ends with them standing in a hotel room, holding hands, looking at the one bright moon in the sky.

Main characters[edit]

Aomame (青豆)

One of the three point-of-view characters of the novel, Aomame is a thirty-year-old woman working as part of an enigmatic organization for which she commits carefully selected murders. Her full name is Masami Aomame but she goes by her last name, which means "green peas".[12][13] As a child, she was a member of a religious cult named "the Society of Witnesses" (modelled after Jehovah's Witnesses) and distributed religious materials with her family on weekends.

Tengo Kawana (川奈 天吾)

The second of the novel's point-of-view characters, he is an unpublished novelist who works as a math tutor at a cram school. His mother died when he was very young; his earliest memory is of his mother having her breasts sucked by a man who was not Tengo's father. His father worked for NHK going door-to-door collecting the network's reception fee, and he used to make Tengo go with him every Sunday.

Ushikawa (牛河)

A grotesquely ugly man hired by Sakigake to investigate Tengo and, later, Aomame. He becomes a point-of-view character in part three of the novel. He is tireless in his investigation, but he is not a member of Sakigake himself. He had a wife and two daughters earlier in his life, but he is now divorced and separated from them. The same character appears in another Murakami story, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Komatsu (小松)

A 45-year-old editor of a publishing company. He lives his daily life on his own schedule, seemingly oblivious to the rhythms of people around him, and often calls Tengo in the middle of the night. Although Komatsu enjoys a good professional reputation for his competence, he is not seen to be an amicable person. Little is known about his private life beyond rumors.

Fuka-Eri (ふかえり)

A slight but striking 17-year-old high-school student whose manuscript, Kūki Sanagi (空気さなぎ, "Air Chrysalis"), is entered in a literary contest. She is extremely reticent, with an unusual, abrupt way of speaking, and what seems to be an apathetic view of life. She also has dyslexia and struggles in school. Her pen name is taken from her real name, Eriko Fukada.

The Leader

He is the founder of Sakigake, and he can hear the voices of the little people. He is also the father of Fuka-Eri, and his real name is Tamotsu Fukada. He acts as a prophet for Sakigake. He has mysterious diseases, which cause him a great deal of pain and stiffness, which sometimes cause his body to become completely rigid and numb.

The Dowager (老婦人)

Her name is Shizue Ogata. She is a wealthy woman in her mid-70s. She lives in the "Willow House" in the Azabu neighborhood and has set up a safe house nearby for women who are victims of domestic violence. She meets Aomame through the sports club she attends, and she later on convinces her to take on the job of taking out targets, men who are guilty of heavy domestic abuse.

Tamaru (タマル)

A 40-year-old man who is the dowager's loyal bodyguard. He was in the toughest unit of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, where he was fed "rats and snakes and locusts". Openly gay, he lives in another part of Azabu with his younger beautician boyfriend. He has a fondness for German Shepherds and enjoys toying with machines and gadgets.

Professor Ebisuno (戎野隆之先生)

A man in his mid-60s who is Fuka-Eri's guardian. He has an apartment in Shinanomachi. He used to work in Academia alongside Fuka-Eri's father before Mr. Fukada went with 30 of his students to start Sakigake.

Publication history[edit]

The novel was originally published in Japan in three hardcover volumes by Shinchosha. Book 1 and Book 2 were both published on May 29, 2009; Book 3 was published on April 16, 2010.

In English translation, Knopf published the novel in the United States in a single volume hardcover edition on October 25, 2011, and released a three volume paperback box-set on May 15, 2015. The cover for the hardcover edition, featuring a transparent dust jacket, was created by Chip Kidd and Maggie Hinders.[14] In the United Kingdom the novel was published by Harvill Secker in two volumes. The first volume, containing Books 1 and 2, was published on October 18, 2011,[15] followed by the second volume, containing Book 3, published on October 25, 2011.[16]

Background information[edit]

Murakami spent four years writing the novel after coming up with the opening sequence and title.[17] The title is a play on the Japanese pronunciation of the year 1984 and a reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The letter Q and , the Japanese number for 9 (typically romanized as "kyū", but as "kew" on the book's Japanese cover), are homophones, which are often used in Japanese wordplay. The title is similar, yet not a reference to Arthur Herzog's 1978 sci-fi novel IQ 83.[citation needed]

Before the publication of 1Q84, Murakami stated that he would not reveal anything about the book, following criticism that leaks had diminished the novelty of his previous books. 1Q84 was noted for heavy advance orders despite this secrecy.[18]

Cultural influences[edit]

As in many of his previous works, Murakami makes frequent reference to composers and musicians, ranging from Bach to Vivaldi and Leoš Janáček, whose Sinfonietta pops up many times at crucial points in the novel. A verse from the 1933 song "It's Only a Paper Moon" by Harold Arlen, E.Y. Harburg and Billy Rose, appears in the book and is the basis for a recurring theme throughout the work. In addition, Murakami refers to other artists such as Billie Holiday, Charles Mingus and The Rolling Stones.

The text also quotes a lengthy passage about the Gilyak people from the travel diary Sakhalin Island (1893–94) by Anton Chekhov.

The structure of the novel refers to Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier (alternate "major key" Aomame and "minor key" Tengo story lines forming 48 chapters of Books 1 and 2) and Goldberg Variations (Book 3).

Religious themes[edit]

In accordance with many of Murakami's novels, 1Q84 is dominated by religious and sacred concepts.[19] 1Q84's plot is built around a mystical cult and two long-lost lovers who are drawn into a distorted version of reality.[19] 1Q84 assigns further meaning to his previous novels[19] and draws a connection between the supernatural and the disturbing.[19] Readers are often cited as experiencing a religious unease that is similar to postmodern sensibilities. This unease is accomplished through Murakami's creation of characters whose religious prescriptions are presented as oppressive, as exemplified in the character of Leader, who is the founder of the Sakigake cult.

Religious othering is a major theme in 1Q84, as Murakami places sacred ideas as existing separately from everyday reality. This separation is often cited as emphasizing that Murakami has a view of religion as a negative force, which lies in opposition to normal, everyday life; Murakami himself is quite silent about his personal religious beliefs.[19]

Critical response[edit]

1Q84 received mixed reviews, scoring a 54% rating and a "Not Recommended by Critics" label from the review aggregator iDreamBooks based on 44 reviews (the lowest among Murakami's novels).[8]

Among the negative reviews, Time's Bryan Walsh found 1Q84 to be the weakest of Murakami's novels in part because it eschews his typical first-person narrative.[20] A negative review from The A.V. Club had Christian Williams calling the book "stylistically clumsy" with "layers of tone-deaf dialogue, turgid description, and unyielding plot"; he awarded a D rating.[21] Also criticizing the book was Sanjay Sipahimalani, who felt the writing was too often lazy and clichéd, the Little People were risible rather than menacing, and that the book had too much repetition.[22] Janet Maslin called the novel's "1000 uneventful pages" "stupefying" in her review for The New York Times. She had previously picked Murakami's earlier work, Kafka on the Shore, as one of the best 10 novels in 2005.[23] William Ambler of Huffington Post panned the book for being "too absorbed in its own games to offer something so humble as resolution, and too turgid and lumbering to offer any more rarified satisfactions".[24] Writing for The Wall Street Journal, Sam Sacks criticized the dullness of Murakami's prose in the novel, calling it "banal and cliché-strewn".[25]

Among the positive reviews, The Guardian's Douglas Haddow has called it "a global event in itself, [which] passionately defends the power of the novel".[18] One review described 1Q84 as a "complex and surreal narrative" which "shifts back and forth between tales of two characters, a man and a woman, who are searching for each other." It tackles themes of murder, history, cult religion, violence, family ties and love.[26] In another review for The Japan Times, it was said that the novel "may become a mandatory read for anyone trying to get to grips with contemporary Japanese culture", calling 1Q84 Haruki Murakami's "magnum opus".[11] Similarly, Kevin Hartnett of The Christian Science Monitor considers it Murakami's most intricate work as well as his most ambitious[27] and Charles Baxter of New York Review of Books praised the ambition of the novel down to the typography and attention to detail.[13] Malcolm Jones of Newsweek considers this novel emblematic of Murakami's mastery of the novel, comparing him to Charles Dickens.[28]

Awards and honors[edit]

The novel was longlisted for the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize and, in November, placed No. 2 in Amazon.com's top books of the year.[29]

It also received the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards in the category Best Fiction.

In 2019, in a survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun amongst 120 Japanese literary experts, 1Q84 was voted the best book published during the Heisei era (1989-2019).[30]

Literary Review nominated the sexual encounter between Tengo and Fuka-eri for the 2011 Bad Sex Award.[31][10]


  1. ^ "Third book of Murakami's bestselling novel '1Q84' to be released in April". Mainichi Daily News. January 2, 2010. Archived from the original on February 21, 2010. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  2. ^ "Murakami's "1Q84" grips Japan". Reuters. June 15, 2009. Archived from the original on February 10, 2010. Retrieved January 2, 2010.
  3. ^ Wada, Akiro (October 27, 2010). "Translator sees U.S. influence in Murakami's humor and writing style". Asahi Weekly. The Asahi Shimbun Company. Archived from the original on October 29, 2010. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  4. ^ Benedicte Page (January 31, 2011). "Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 due out in English in October". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  5. ^ Boog, Jason (January 30, 2011). "Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 Coming 10/25 in Single Volume – GalleyCat". Mediabistro.com. Archived from the original on October 28, 2011. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  6. ^ "Book Trade Announcements – Harvill Secker And Vintage Acquire Trio Of New Novels From Murakami". booktrade.info. October 16, 2009. Archived from the original on March 8, 2012. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  7. ^ Murakami, Haruki (August 1, 2011). "Haruki Murakami: "Town of Cats"". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  8. ^ a b "1Q84 by Haruki Murakami". iDreamBooks. Archived from the original on November 23, 2019. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  9. ^ "1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: Bad sex award extract". The Guardian. November 25, 2011. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  10. ^ a b Kaplan, Isabel (February 1, 2012). "How (Not) to Write a Sex Scene". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Why Murakami's best-selling '1Q84' is worth the wait". The Japan Times. July 5, 2009. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Anderson, Sam (October 21, 2011). "The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami". The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  13. ^ a b Baxter, Charles (December 8, 2011). "Behind Murakami's Mirror". The New York Review of Books. Retrieved November 18, 2011.
  14. ^ "Chip Kidd Discusses the Book Jacket for Haruki Murakami's Forthcoming Novel 1Q84 « Knopf Doubleday – Knopf". Knopf.knopfdoubleday.com. Archived from the original on March 5, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  15. ^ "1Q84: Books 1 and 2". The Random House Group. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  16. ^ "1Q84: Book 3". The Random House Group. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  17. ^ Anderson, Sam (October 24, 2011). "The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami". The New York Times. Retrieved October 25, 2011.
  18. ^ a b Haddow, Douglas (October 30, 2011). "1Q84 is proof that literature matters". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  19. ^ a b c d e "HKU Scholars Hub: HKU Libraries Thesis Online Copyright Acknowledgement" (PDF). hub.hku.hk. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  20. ^ Walsh, Bryan (October 31, 2011). "1Q84: A Murakami Novel Sans Murakami". Time. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
  21. ^ Williams, Christian (November 9, 2011). "Haruki Murakami: 1Q84". The A.V. Club. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  22. ^ Sanjay Sipahimalani (December 3, 2011). "Aomame in Wonderland". Indian Express. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
  23. ^ Janet Maslin (November 9, 2011). "A Tokyo With Two Moons and Many More Puzzles". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  24. ^ William Ambler (December 20, 2011). "1Q84: I'm Not A Fan". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2021.
  25. ^ Sam Sacks (October 15, 2011). "Book Review: 1Q84". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  26. ^ "Secrets surround 1st Murakami novel in 5 years". CBC News. May 29, 2009. Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved May 30, 2009.
  27. ^ Hartnett, Kevin (November 2, 2011). "1Q84". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved April 24, 2014.
  28. ^ Jones, Malcolm (November 4, 2011). "Murakami's Dreamy Return". Newsweek. Retrieved November 5, 2011.
  29. ^ Haq, Husana (November 9, 2011). "10 best books of 2011, according to Amazon (page 2 of 10)". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
  30. ^ Nathan, Richard. "The 'best Japanese work of fiction' published in Japanese during Japan's Heisei era was 'IQ84' by Haruki Murakami". Red Circle. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  31. ^ Murakami, Haruki (November 25, 2011). "1Q84 by Haruki Murakami: Bad sex award extract". The Guardian. Retrieved September 27, 2021.

External links[edit]