Book Two, Chapters 11-18
By Dennis Abrams
And…let’s start once again with Aomame:
As she begins to work on stretching the Leader out, she is surprised how strong his muscles are, and wonders whether or not she’ll be able to go through with killing him. In fact, as she finds the spot and prepares to slam the needle into his neck, she hesitates. The Leader though, it seems, knows what she is planning to do and tells her to do it, once and for all, but still she hesitates. The Leader references the Little People as giving him the desires he finds himself unable to defy.
The Leader tells her that ancient kings heard voices and connected the world around them to those voices. That king was then slaughtered (or sacrificed more accurately) by his people to maintain balance between that world and the world of the Little People. But in time, kings stopped being killed and that essential balance was lost, and people stopped hearing voices. Aomame doesn’t believe him, so the Leader uses his powers to lift a heavy clock off the nightstand and let it slowly come back down. He asks to be killed, but now Aomame wants him to die a slow painful death.
The Leader tells Aomame that the Little People killed Ayumi as a way of sending a message not to kill the Leader. He also tells her that if she does kill him, he will not let Tengo be killed. And as a capper, he tells her that he knows about 1Q84 – but how could he know about that?
When Aomame asks the Leader if they are now in 1Q84 instead of 1984, he tell her that it not a parallel world – 1984 simply no longer exists for either the Leader or Aomame – for Aomame, the tracks to 1984 have been switched on her to lead to 1Q84; there’s no going back.
It seems that balance is key: the Little People can’t use their power without an equal power being used against them. And, as the Leader became a conduit for the Little People, his daughter became the counterforce against them.
In fact, it was by raping her that the Leader caused her to become the agent against the Little People, and she and Tengo, by joining forces, have created a way to stop them. The Leader tells Aomame that she was brought into 1Q84 because of her love for Tengo – a force of will – fate, in a way, is bringing everything together against the wills of those involved.
For now, the Leader is the only agent of the Little People – they have not been able to find a replacement and so they need him. “Air Chrysalis” has created many obstacles for the Little People, and Tengo’s new novel, inspired by Fuka-Eri, will create more, making Tengo their number one threat.
So the Leader offers Aomame a choice: if she kills him the Little People will leave Tengo alone and seek a new channeling agent, although Sakigake will undoubtedly hunt Aomame down. As of now, there seems to be no way to rescue both Aomame and Tengo. Aomame, weeping, kills the Leader.
Aomame places a blanket over the Leader’s dead body, then goes outside and tells the guards that he is sleeping – the usual reaction to her therapy. Buzzcut and Ponytail give her extra money, and after changing, she heads to Shinjuku Station. She gets in touch with Tamaru who sends her to a clean and spotless (almost antiseptic) safe house, full of food and regular household supplies. She takes a shower and thinks about the day, but mostly about Tengo.
The next day, there is no mention of the Leader’s death on the news, although Tamaru calls and tells Aomame that the hotel has been cleared out and there have been “movements.” – but what happens next cannot be said for sure. The Dowager comes on the phone and thanks Aomame, telling her that her new life is being prepared. Aomame tells her about the Leader’s last moments, and about his wanting death. Whatever was urging the Leader on was stopped by killing him, the Dowager explained. In the meantime, Tsubasa has still not been found, and Tamaru warns Aomame not to leave the apartment.
The reality sets in that Aomame has killed Fuka-Eri’s father. A crow lands on her balcony and then leaves – is it a spy for the Little People? There are new books in the apartment including “Air Chrysalis” which, naturally, Aomame decides to read.
Returning home, Tengo discovers that 1.6 million yen have been deposited in his account – undoubtedly from Komatsu’s front company for “Air Chrysalis” – he considers returning the money but postpones making a decision. Fuka-Eri is waiting for him, and Tengo makes them dinner. They hear thunder in the distance, which Fuka-Eri blames on the Little People. Tengo learns that the Little People have difficulty using their powers and wisdom beyond the forest and their world. For now, Tengo and Fuka-Eri are safe, but those around them (Tengo’s girlfriend perhaps) are not.
The thunder continues to build and Fuka-Eri asks Tengo to get into bed with her. He tells her the story of the town of cats, and Fuka-Eri tells him they have to go to that town together, adding that the Little People might find the entrance, because she and Tengo are one.
Now both in pajamas, Tengo and Fuka-Eri hold onto each other in bed preparing for what she calls “purification.” Despite the storm (and Tengo’s erection) they fall asleep. When Tengo wakes up, he sees that they are both naked, he’s not able to move (not unlike the Leader’s paralysis) and Fuka-Eri climbs on top and begins to have sex with him. When she finishes (and he ejaculates condomless) the storm clears, and she tells him that now he can relax. The paralysis fades.
The next day, the thunderstorm seems ghostly to Tengo, almost as if it had never happened, but he does remember being paralyzed and Fuka-Eri having sex with him. He wants to get in touch with Komatsu to return the payment, but, calling his office, he learns that Komatsu has not been in for several days. Tengo remarks that he might just be the next person to disappear, but Fuka-Eri tells him that he won’t, because she has purified him.
Tengo, finally, decides he wants to find Aomame. He figures that his best chance it to get in touch with the Witness Society, or see what he can dig up on his own.
Meanwhile, Fuka-Eri, despite her breasts, explains that she has never had a period. Tengo reveals to her that he wants to find a girl who he hasn’t seen in twenty years – Fuka-Eri tells him that Aomame might be very close by.
Indeed, she tells him, Aomame is hiding nearby, and that their time is limited. If Tengo can remember something about Aomame, he might discover where she is. Tengo decides to go out, and tells Fuka-Eri not to answer the door for anyone. He has a beer, thinks, and wonders if the Little People are after Aomame and what she could have done to them.
He also imagines that Aomame could have shared with the moon her secret feelings. He looks up and discovers that there is a second moon – just like in the novel he has started writing.
Some thoughts/favorite things:
Loved all the chapters with Aomame and the Leader. Her hesitation. Flow. Truth. Love. His desire to die. His knowledge of 1Q84 and Tengo. The slaughter/sacrifice of kings. Hearing voices.
The Leader is bound to his fate as Aomame is bound to hers.
Do the Little People exist outside of good/evil?
“There is nothing in this world that never takes a step outside a person’s heart.”
The depressing view outside Tengo’s window: “The misshapen trees…Rusty bicycles…A nasty-looking old man was walking a stupid-looking mutt. A stupid-looking woman drove by in an ugly subcompact. Nasty-looking wires stretched from one ugly utility pole to another. The scene outside the window suggested that the world has settled in a place between ‘being miserable’ and ‘lacking in joy,’ and consisted of an infinite agglomeration of variously shaped microcosms.”
But then again…Fuka-Eri’s ears. And neck.
Another very specific dinner menu. Murakami loves doing those. And I love reading them. The grounding in reality.
“What does ‘real’ mean,” Fuka-Eri asked, without a question mark. Tengo had no answer for this of course.”
Of course Fuka-Eri would love the story of the town of cats.
The Leader’s explanation: “No, this is no parallel world. You don’t have 1984 over there and 1Q84 branching off over here and the two worlds running along parallel tracks. The year 1984 no longer exists anywhere. For you and for me, the only time that exists anymore is this year of 1Q84…We have entered into this place where we are now. Or the time flow has entered us once and for all. And as far as I understand it, the door only opens in one direction. There is no way back…For you, it was Sangenjaya. But the specific place is not the question. The question here, in the end, is the time. The track, as it were, was switched there, and the world was transformed into 1Q84.”
“It’s Only a Paper Moon” – “If you don’t believe in the world, and if there is no love it, then everything is phony. No matter which world we are talking about, what kind of world we are talking about, the line separating fact from hypothesis is practically invisible to the eye. It can only be seen with the inner eye, the eye of the mind…You were carried into this world when the train you were on had its tracks switched.”
And of course, around the same time that the Leader talks about
Tengo and Fuka-Eri joining forces, they’re actually in bed…um…joining forces.
Aomame’s choices – will she have to die to save Tengo?
Another death, another vacuum that need to be filled.
Interesting that Tengo and Aomame’s paths would never have crossed in 1984, but in 1Q84…
The Leader’s paralysis and sex; Tengo’s paralysis and sex.
Given the in-depth look at Aomame’s showering/cleaning after killing the Leader, is she now “purified” as was Tengo? Have both she and Tengo entered into new lives?
“In the course of this one day, several things have taken a decisive step forward, Aomame thought. The gears that have turned forward never turn back. That is one of the world’s rules.”
“What kind of world will be there tomorrow?” “Nobody knows the answer to that,” Fuka-Eri said.
Are “free will” and “fate” somehow joined?
“Is this the new world?”
Tamaru and the rat carver – why?
Aomame hiding like a wounded cat – love it.
So…the moment that Tengo sees the two moons while sitting in the playground – is that the moment he switches tracks? Or is it the moment he knows?
From Jay Rubin:
“Clearly, what Murakami was aiming for in his title was that it should be enigmatic, that it should be visually striking, and that it should have an Orwellian echo. Although the title evokes Orwell’s 1984, and both books begin on a chilly day in early April 1984, the novel 1Q84 cannot be called an homage to or a variation or commentary on Orwell. As a critique of the Soviet Union and totalitarianism in general, 1984 imagines one possible future. 1Q84 instead ‘looks back and imagines the past as it might have been,’ says Murakami, who points out that he is interested in examining the mentality of the era he lived through from a different perspective. Aomame and her beloved Tengo are five years younger than he was at the time. The student uprising that had been so decisive for Murakami was already a thing of the past when Tengo entered college.
There are six direct references to 1984 in the entire novel. Where the two books connect more broadly is in the theme of mind control. In both Orwell and Murakami, the rewriting and distortion of history come up for examination, but while the inhabitants of Orwell’s futuristic totalitarian dystopia are subjected to invasive state-sponsored mind control in all aspects of their lives, Murakami looks back on a familiar 1984 in which the most overt users of techniques meant to control the thoughts of their adherents are religious cults. Commenting on an especially severe cult, the character called ‘Professor Ebisuno’ echoes Murakami in Underground on the broad appeal of cult membership when he says:
‘What Takashima is doing, if you ask me, is making mindless robots. They take the circuits out of people’s brains that make it possible for them to think for themselves. Their world is like the one that George Orwell depicted in his novel. I’m sure you realize that there are plenty of people who are looking for exactly that kind of brain death. It makes life a lot easier. You don’t have to think about difficult things, just shut up and do what your superiors tell you to do.’
Aomame herself was raised to be an unquestioning adherent of a stern ascetic Christian sect called the Society of Witnesses, which, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, forbids blood transfusions and preaches the coming of the End Times, but she abandoned the faith when she was eleven years old. Now, at age 29, it falls to her to assassinate the leader of another cult, the character in the novel who bears the closest resemblance to Orwell’s Big Brother because he is physically big and his followers take his word as absolute. Called ‘Leader’ (the word Ruda is used like a name in the Japanese text), he heads a faintly Buddhistic religious commune called ‘Sakigake,’ which means ‘Forerunner.’ Granted official government recognition as a religion in 1979, the fictitious Sakigake can be seen as the ‘forerunner’ of the all-too-real Aum Shinrikyo, the notorious Buddhist cult founded in 1984 that fomented the sarin gas attack against the Tokyo subway system in 1995.
Leader is said to have spent two years with a commune known as the ‘Takashima Academy,’ the cult decried by Professor Ebisuno as a maker of ‘mindless robots,’ where he gained the expertise to run his own commune. Likewise, before he founded Aum Shinrikyo in 1984, leader Asahara Shoko spent the years 1980 to 1983 gaining organizational know-how from the Buddhist Agon Shu sect. It was around that time that Asahara is reported to have told a friend, ‘Do you know what the number one money making business is? It’s religion!’ Murakami has called it a ‘total coincidence’ that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was also set in 1984, but clearly he has an ongoing interest in the period’s contrast between financial affluence and spiritual desolation and in Aum Shinrikyo’s claims to possess the ultimate cure for such desolation.
Sakigake is as walled off and secretive and controlling as Aum Shinrikyo. It gives Leader sexual access to young girls in the manner of Aum leader Asahara and many other self-appointed religious leaders, and though this religion’s Leader doesn’t show himself levitating the way Asahara claimed he could, he does demonstrate his powers to Aomame by levitating a heavy clock. Levitation is also mentioned in 1984 as a technique that might be used by the Party if it wished to demonstrate its powers, which have rendered the laws of nature obsolete.
Not only can Leader defy the laws of nature in this way, like the powerful Party member O’Brien, he can read minds and has knowledge far beyond that of ordinary mortals. He knows that Aomame has given the name ‘1Q84’ to the parallel world she seems to have entered, though she has only done so mentally and never mentioned it to anyone. He knows that she has felt strongly connected to a budding novelist named Tengo ever since she grasped his hand in an elementary-school classroom when they were both ten years old. He knows that they not only long for each other, but they picture each other whenever they masturbate. Further complicating matters, Leader knows that Aomame has been sent to assassinate him, and he welcomes the prospect of the painless death she offers him, promising to save Tengo’s life in return (though his religious followers will surely pursue and destroy her.) Only a god – or the author of a piece of fiction – could possibly be that omniscient.
The novelist Tengo, too, is physically large, suggesting that he rules over his created fictional world like a Big Brother, and Murakami draws several parallels between Tengo and Leader. At one point, on a fateful dark and stormy September night…
The year 1Q84 is presented not as an ‘actual’ parallel universe, as if Murakami is a believer in multiverse theories, but rather as an entirely made-up world, in which anything can happen because the author says it happens: he writes it that way, and therefore it is true. Of course, Murakami never states it this overtly. Instead, he has Aomame and Leader discuss the nature of the 1Q84 world in enigmatic terms. When Leader says that he knows she has given her own entirely made-up label ‘1Q84’ to the world in which she is living, this revelation is startling enough to serve as the cliffhanger at the end of the chapter. The next Aomame chapter (Book Two, Chapter 13) then picks up the discussion:
‘1Q84,’ Aomame said. ‘Are you talking about the fact that I am living now in the year called 1Q84, not the real 1984?’
‘What the real world is: that is a very difficult problem,’ the man called Leader said as he lay on his stomach. ‘What it is, is a metaphysical proposition. But this is the real world, there is no doubt about that. The pain one feels in this world is real pain. Deaths caused in this world are real deaths. Blood shed in this world is real blood. This is no imitation world, no imaginary world, no metaphysical world. I guarantee you that. But this is not the 1984 you know.’
‘Like a parallel world?’
‘The man’s shoulders trembled with laughter. ‘You’ve been reading too much science fiction. No, this is no parallel world. You don’t have 1984 over there and 1Q84 branching off over here and the two worlds running along parallel tracks. The year 1984 no longer exists anywhere. For you and for me, the only time that exists anymore is this year of 1Q84.’…
‘And in this year of 1A84, there are two moons in the sky, aren’t there?’
‘Correct: two moons. That is the sign that the track has been switched. That is how you can tell the two worlds apart. Not that all the people here can see two moons. In fact, most people are not aware of it. In other words, the number of people who know that this is 1Q84 is quite limited.’
Of course, when a fictional character says ‘This is no imaginary world’ and that ‘Blood shed in this world is real blood,’ what he is talking about is precisely the ‘imaginary world’ created by the author, a ‘proposition’ as ‘metaphysical’ as the ‘metaphysical soles’ of the Girl from Ipanema. Murakami is not saying that there are people in this world (the real 1984 or the real 2012) who are truly in touch with divine, and who therefore deserve to be spiritual leaders with a god-given right to control the minds of the flock, but rather that, only in a world with two moons such as 1Q84, can a religious leader actually perform the ‘same old tricks’ that religious leaders have used throughout the centuries to dupe their followers. In the world of 1Q84, the leader exerts his psycho-kinetic energy and lifts the heavy clock without wires or pulleys. He could not have done that in plain, old 1984. Perhaps the one more-or-less ‘real’ place where a trick could work would be early twenty-first century America, where candidates for president argue about the difference between a ‘religion’ and a ‘cult’ and claim to see Satan working for their political enemies.
Leader’s immense stature may be (at least verbally) reminiscent of Big Brother, but even he is in the grip of forces larger than himself. Indeed, it is strongly implied that he is a captive of those who worship him. A charismatic former anthropology professor who used to have a ‘visceral disgust for religion,’ he is now prevented from communicating with anyone outside the walls of the Sakigake commune by his former students and other followers. ‘there’s no longer any place for a Big Brother in this real world of ours,’ says the wise Professor Ebisuno. ‘Instead, these so-called Little People have come on the scene. Interesting verbal contrast, don’t you think?’
Sparked perhaps by nothing more than this ‘verbal contrast’ with 1984’s Big Brother, Murakami creates a cartoon-like race of Little People, who enter this world mysteriously through a variety of passageways (the muzzle of a dead goat…) to ‘pluck white, translucent threads out of the air’ and weave them into five-foot-long, womb-like cocoons called ‘air chrysalises’ that give birth to everything from alter egos to longed-for loves to a tangle of three angry snakes. For the most part, however, the Little People remain invisible in their otherworldly forest home, causing the wild thunderstorm on that critical September night when their fury is aroused. Instead of the Big Brother that Orwell posited, it is the Little People who control the system inside of which all of us are trapped, that same oppressive machine of which Murakami spoke so eloquently in his Jerusalem Prize acceptance speech. The Little People might be seen as a metaphor for the faceless bureaucrats who run governmental agencies, corporations, and religious organizations. On a still more universal plane, they might stand for the human genes that ‘ride us into the ground like racehorses from generation to generation.’ ‘They have been called by many different names, but in most cases have not been called anything at all. They were simply there. The expression ‘Little People’ is just an expedient,’ says the all-knowing Leader. ‘My daughter called them that when she was very young and brought them with her,’ which perhaps explains why the Little People are like something out of a fairy tale (or a Disney version of a fairy tale).”
My next post: Tuesday, October 14th, Book Two Chapters 19-24; Book Three Chapters 1-3