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Murakami Round-up: ichi-kyu-hachi-yon

June 08

Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, 1Q84 hit the stores in Japan the other week to much literary salivating and bookish frenzy.

Unfortunately, the work has yet to be translated into English and this leaves a legion of Murakami enthusiasts (myself included) waiting waiting waiting for an Australian pub date to be announced. I’ve long been a fan of Murakami’s work and this is perhaps the only time in about eight years when I’ve truly regretted letting my school Japanese go. The fact is, no one does Murakami like Murakami – there is no one I know who writes in that way, who can pull off that particular brand of dark, solitary surrealism, that disjointed yet silky modern noir. I came by his work backwards, starting with Kafka on the Shore and then retreating to Norwegian Wood. Although I have to admit that sometimes I find him rather hit-and-miss. His collection of short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman had some wonderful notes, but others I could barely even finish.

Even so, I’m awaiting his next instalment very impatiently. Details of the plot have been kept behind tight lips, whether due to the official reason that leaked information about Kafka on the Shore ruined sales and disappointed fans, or because it’s all part of that ever-important ‘marketing strategy’. There was a theory that the novel was inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, as the pronunciation of ‘Q’ in the title is similar to that of the number 9 (kyu) in Japanese. Murakami’s publisher, Shinchosha, fed the flames by likening it to Orwell’s classic: ‘Where Orwell published a novel about the future, Murakami approaches the year from the opposite direction, creating an alternate past’. However, the Millions have posted that the plot is something like this:

‘The book follows the stories of two characters, one a writer and the other a young PE instructor who become involved with a mysterious cult. As the story unfolds, they create an alternate universe, “a mysterious past, different than the one we know,” which the author character refers to as 1Q84.’

Whatever the reasons behind the silence, it certainly has had the effect of stirring up quite a storm, both in Japan and overseas. Shinchosha reportedly increased the print run from 100 000 copies up to 480 000, just to cope with advanced orders. The publisher has not yet announced whether they will print or sell the rights to an English version. Guessing from the hype, my money’s on a swift translation.

For other interested fans, here are a few more hints about the book – it’s long (1055 pages), the ‘Q’ in the title apparently stands for the English question mark, it’s in two volumes, and the first line possibly reads ‘The taxi radio was playing an FM classical music program’, according to Daniel Morales who is blogging on 1Q84 right now. Make of that what you will.

JA

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Comments

by Kathy
08 Jun 09 at 9:13

I agree that he can be very hit and miss. 'A Wild Sheep Chase' is one of my favorite novels, but I couldn't finish 'Dance, Dance, Dance.' There is however no doubting that he's one of a kind. His last book 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' did very well here so I'm sure when the new one hits our shores it will go gang-busters.

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by Bill Bartmann
04 Sep 09 at 12:42

Cool site, love the info.

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by Robert Shumake
03 Feb 10 at 21:06

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Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. :)

-Robert Shumake

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