Book Two, Chapters 19-24; Book Three, Chapters 1-3
By Dennis Abrams
And so it goes. As does my love affair with Murakami and 1Q84
Let’s catch up with Aomame:
Aomame loves “Air Chrysalis” (was there ever any doubt?), especially it’s simple flowing language, language that she’s sure could only have been written by Tengo.
And finally, we hear the entire story. The heroine, who lives in a cult compound, is punished with isolation in an old storehouse for letting an old goat die, and on her first night with the dead goat, the Little People make their entrance through its mouth. They ask the girl to help them pluck threads from the air to make a chrysalis for something that is “coming” but won’t tell the girl what it is. They work on the chrysalis every night but still won’t tell her what will come out of it. (As Aomame reads the story, she senses a sort of inner illness caused by the Little People.) The girl is released from isolation and the Little People come to her in a dream, telling her to go to the storehouse to see the chrysalis break open.
The chrysalis, she sees, is huge and already starting to crack open. When it breaks open, she discovers herself inside. It is called a “dohta” and the original girl is a “maza” – the dohta is a shadow of the girl’s heart and mind. The two must be together to allow the Little People to have a permanent, living passageway into our world. She becomes a “perceiver” conveying what she perceives to a “receiver.” The girl must not allow anything to happen to her maza, she is warned by the Little People. In addition, she is told to watch the sky for two moons, which will be a “sign.” But the girl knows something is wrong and unnatural with this, and runs away to live with a famous artist, an old friend of her father’s.
There, she sees the two moons and knows that her dohta has awakened. She begins to lose the people around her as a warning to return to her dohta, but doesn’t want to. Instead, she begins creating her own air chrysalis to see if she can enter the world of the Little People and save the lives of those around her. The story ends with the girl stepping into the passageway.
Aomame realizes that the story is real, and is, in fact, an instruction manual. She suspects that Tsubasa is actually a dohta, not a maza which has somehow escaped, and understands that the Leaders was having sex with the shadows of the girls, not the actual girls themselves. Aomame believes that she is now part of the effort against the Little People.
That night, Aomame sits out her balcony, drinking hot cocoa (for the first time in years) and watching the two moons. She thinks about the rubber plant she had in her old life and wonders why she is so concerned about it. Suddenly, looking down from her balcony, she sees a man sitting in the playground across the street looking up at the moons as well and in an instant realizes it’s Tengo (although she still checks him out with binoculars). She races down to see him, but he is gone by the time she gets there.
She decides that she wants to leave 1Q84 and is ready to die for Tengo, but she needs to visit one last place first.
Still no mention of the Leader’s death on the news (obviously it’s being kept hush-hush). Aomame dressed professional, puts the pistol in her bag, hails a cab and tells the drive to take the Expressway between Yohga and Ikejiri. Once again, the Expressway is full of traffic, and she has the driver let her out near the location of the emergency stairwell. (He warns her to be careful.) She walks, just as she did at the beginning, towards the stairwell, and discovers that while everything else as it was when she entered 1Q84, the stairwell is no longer there. She thinks of Tengo, says a prayer, and begins squeezing the trigger of her gun.
But she doesn’t pull it – she decides not to kill herself because she believes she heard a distant voice calling her name. She tells Tamaru she will remain where she is, she won’t have plastic surgery, change her name, or leave (at least until the end of the year) – instead she’ll continue watching the playground from her balcony. And although Tamaru and the Dowager are concerned, they bow to her wishes. Food and other necessities will be delivered once a week by supply masters, but Aomame is not to show herself to them. Tamaru also tells her that he has purchased for her Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time.” (YAY Tamaru!)
And then there’s Tengo…
He wanders through Koenji, and when he gets back to his apartment, Fuka-Eri tells him he has had a call from the sanitarium – his father has lapsed into a coma for no apparent reason so Tengo says he’ll go the next day.
Tengo then asks Fuka-Eri about the two moons. She says they have entered the world in the story together, because they wrote the story together. Tengo, Fuka-Eri tells him, is a receiver, and the two of them need to stay together until Aomame is found.
He presses her more about the relationship between perceiver and receiver. He theorizes that is why she let him rewrite the book, which was what began his shift in worlds. Fuka-Eri also tells him that he has changed, which he will find out when he goes to the cat town.
Tengo goes back to the sanitarium, where his father shows no physical response to the doctors. He realizes that his father not only wants to die, but that he is willing himself to die. But before he does, Tengo wants to tell him about his life. He has no idea whether or not his “father” can hear him, but he needs to speak.
He is occasionally interrupted by Nurse Omura who comes into check on his father’s IV bags. She has a pen in her hair, but the last time she comes in, and suggests that Tengo goes out to get something to eat, the pen is not there. When he returns his father in another room and in his place is an air chrysalis – exactly as Tengo described it. Curious as to what is inside he pries it open to discover Aomame’s ten year-old form. He calls to her but although there is an unmistakable warmth coming from her, she does not wake up. Slowly, the chrysalis disappears, along with Aomame. Tengo vows to find her.
Tengo continues reading to his father, and concluding that his father needs a deeper commitment, decides to stay near the sanatorium for a time. Fuka-Eri and Tengo talk on the phone, and she tells him that a crow (the one that visited Aomame?) comes everyday to the window. A television fee collector has also come around, but she does not answer the door. But, since Tengo does not have a television, he wonders why the collector is visiting. The man shouts “thief” through the door, which perplexes Tengo.
And then…suddenly…Ushikawa chapters?
Ushikawa meets with Buzzcut and Ponytail who want more information about Aomame. Ushikawa explains that there is no way someone like Aomame could have pulled off killing the Leader and then slipping away on her own – he knows that she must be connected to some sort of an organization. He has gone over her phone records and discovered a number of calls to a traffic division in a police precinct which is odd since he knows Aomame doesn’t drive. Ushikawa knows about Ayumi’s murder, and wants to see if there is any connection between Aomame and Ayumi. He also questions the two on whether the know the location of Fuka-Eri, and finds it odd that they have no interest in Tengo.
But when Buzzcut and Ponytail leave, it is revealed that Ushikawa knows a lot more than he has been letting on: he has Aomame’s private client list and has traced her back to Willow House, which he found to be very well-guarded. He is also curious about the Little People.
The importance of “two” – two moons, two selves, two people…
Aomame, so strong and in control, is now like the princess in the tower, waiting on the balcony for her prince to come.
The connection between Tengo’s new world and the cat town. Nothing makes sense in cat town. The crow and the fee collector.
Why is Ushikawa now a major character?
“Near the usual moon a second smaller moon hangs like a slightly shriveled green pea [MY NOTE: Aomame?] My dohta must have awakened, the girl thinks. The two moons cast the shadow of her heart and mind. Her heart gives a shudder. The world has changed. And something is beginning to happen.”
“The look of the new moon was almost entirely Tengo’s creation.”
“This can’t be…What kind of reality mimics fictional creations?…There’s no way this can be…That’s a fiction al world, a world that does not exist in reality…Could this mean, then – that this is the world of the novel? Could I have somehow left the real world and entered the world of Air Chrysalis like Alice falling down the rabbit hole? Or could the real world have been made over so as to match exactly the story of Air Chrysalis?”
“Whatever the composition of this new world might be, I surely have no choice but to accept it in silence. There’s no way to pick and choose. Even in the world that existed until now, there was no choice. It’s the same thing. And besides…even if I wanted to lodge a complaint, who is there for me to complain to?”
The scene with Aomame watching Tengo in the playground was extraordinary.
“What should I do?”
Nice cliffhanger leaving Aomame with the muzzle of the gun in her mouth at the end of Chapter 23 – but why/how were the Little People chiming in?
Tengo/Air Chrysalis/Aomame – thoughts?
“I will find Aomame, no matter what happens, no matter what kind of world it may be, no matter who she may be.”
From Matthew Carl Strecher’s The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami:
“In time, Tengo finds himself enveloped by the world of ‘1Q84’ as well, as fact as difficult for him to accept as it was for Aomame. He is particularly troubled by the fact that this new world is virtually identical to the setting of the story he has created with Fukaeri. ‘Am I in the world of the novel?’ he asks himself when, looking up, he sees two moons hanging in the sky, precisely as he described them in the final manuscript. In time Tengo realizes, as does the reader, that he has internalized that world, so that when he writes – and later, even when he is not writing – he has difficulty keeping track of the various realities that swirl in and out of his mind, until the external, ‘objective’ world has all but ceased to exist, or more accurately, has joined together with all other language-based worlds:
‘He wrote a story in which there were two moons. A world that contained the Little People and the air cocoon. These were things he had borrowed from Fukaeri’s Kuki sanagi, but by now they had become wholly his own. While he faced his manuscript, his consciousness lived in that world. Even when he had put his pen down and left his desk, his consciousness sometimes remained there. At such times he had the peculiar feeling his flesh and consciousness were separated, and he could no longer distinguish where the real world ended and the imaginary world began.’
In a sense, Tengo expresses many of Murakami’s own statements on the act of writing, the dilemmas faced by the imaginative novelist who grapples with a vast array of worlds, all fictitious, but none necessarily more so than the ‘actual’ world. One hears in the passage above echoes of the author’s metaphor of descending into the depths of the cellar beneath the ‘two-story house’ of the imagination.
Through the simple fact of being declared, then, both in the spoken and written word, the world of ‘1Q84,’ with its two moons, Little People, and automatic weapon-carrying police officers, has come into actual existence: it is unquestionably constructed from words, from language, yet it has taken on actual, concrete existence – others inhabit it, and those who are capable of doing so remark on its peculiarity.
Interestingly, though privileging neither, Murakami makes a clear distinction in this text between spoken and written language, with Fukaeri and Tengo representing each of these respectively. The new world initially comes into being when Fukaeri speaks it to her adoptive sister, but its potential is not fully realized until Tengo has interpreted it and (re)produced it through the simultaneous act of reading and writing, lending it coherence and order. There is an underlying sense of the sacred in this joint act of creation, for Tengo and Fukaeri have assumed the roles and responsibilities of creator deities, and yet, as even the gods eventually discover, no reality lasts forever; whether grounded in the spoken or the written world, every reality is ultimately revealed to be shifty and impermanent.
And so, we might ask, is there a moral to this story? What can we learn from these texts? First and foremost, we may conclude that words are fallible, not to be trusted, but in the end words are all we have, and it is with words that we must construct and interact with the world’s various realities…”
“We have already seen that 1Q84 is centered on the gradual convergence of its two lead characters, Tengo and Aomame. The work’s title is derived from the name Aomame assigns to the ‘other world,’ the Q standing for ‘question mark.’ However, use of the expression ‘other world’ in this particular work is somewhat unsatisfying; in fact, it is more like a time slip or, as the Leader describes it to Aomame shortly before she ends his life, like a train switching tracks. ‘This is not a parallel world…Here the problem is one of time…the point where the track switched and the world became 1Q84.’ It would be most accurate, then, to envision ‘1Q84’ as a side step for time, not unlike opening one new circuit while closing off another. Murakami himself may have been concerned that his readers would misunderstand this point, for more than one character remarks that there can only be one reality at any given time.
Structurally, too, the world of ‘1Q84’ represents a significant departure in how Murakami handles the idea of other worlds. Aside from certain bizarre details – the existence of the Little People, a second moon hanging in the sky, police who carry automatic weapons rather than revolvers – this new dimension is virtually indistinguishable from the old, and while Aomame unmistakably enters ‘1Q84’ in the characteristic Murakami way, that is, via an escape ladder from an elevated highway, even she does not initially notice anything different. The eerie, gloomy, atmosphere that normally marks the metaphysical realm is nowhere to be found.
Or rather, is it be found in the ‘1Q84’ world’s own ‘other world,’ the characterization of which, however, is strictly imaginary: for Tengo, it takes the form of a ‘forest’ in his mind, which he associates with the unfettered imagination of Dickens, and of Chekhov, who wrote of the primitive ‘Gilyaks,’ aboriginal people who once inhabited the primeval forests of the Kurile Islands north of Hokkaido. For Fukaeri, this links them with the ‘Little People’ – earth spirits or deities similar to ‘Johnny Walker’ and ‘Colonel Sanders’ – who rule the forests with absolute supremacy and, when released into the physical world, bring with them a kind of elemental violence, expressed as torrential rainstorms and violent thunder.
In the actual physical world this realm comes to be known to Tengo as ‘Catsville’ (Neko no machi), named for a short story he has read about a man who gets off a train at a lonely stop along the line and finds himself in a deserted town inhabited solely by invisible cats whose language he can understand. Eventually the man realizes that this town is the land of the dead and that the cats are the souls of the departed. By then, however, it is too late; the tracks have been switched, and the train will no longer stop here to pick the man up. For Tengo, this name takes on a natural connection to the rural seaside geriatric center where his father lies dying, and as his father progresses through the final stages of life – from consciousness to coma, coma to death – the geriatric center and its surrounding town also ‘switch tracks,’ from a place of dying to the actual land of the dead…” (More on this later)
My next post: Tuesday, October 21st, Book Three, Chapters 4-12
Enjoy. And please…post/comment/ask questions!!!!!