Book Three, Chapters 4-12
By Dennis Abrams
So…let’s begin with Ushikawa.
Ushikawa, trying to understand how the elderly dowager could be involved with the killing of the Leader, learns that she is a retired businesswoman who inherited the company from her husband, and then sold off its stock. Although he continues to dig around, the Dowager (real name Mrs. Ogata) is very private, and connecting Sakigake to Willow House is difficult.
So instead, he starts trying to find information about Aomame’s parents, as well as details about her job at the sports club. He asks a contact, whom he calls “Bat,” to look into those things. Ushikawa also discovers that Aomame is probably living in a safe house.
Bat breaks into the sports club and steals Witness Society information as well as information that links the Dowager and Aomame through a self-defense class, leading Ushikawa to surmise that they were both victims of domestic violence. He also learns that Tengo and Aomame attended the same elementary school.
Continuing his investigation, Ushikawa goes to the town of Ichikawa, where Tengo and Aomame both lived as children. Under the guise of working for the New Japan Foundation for the Advancement of Scholarship and the Arts, he learns that in some way, both Tengo and Aomame have made attacks on Sakigake, and that they have similar pasts, ranging from unhappy childhoods to escaping from home on athletic scholarships.
He also speaks to Mrs. Ota, the woman who taught Tengo and Aomame. She remembers Tengo as bright but burdened by his father’s strict nature, as well as Aomame’s depression from her parent’s strict religious practices.
And then there’s Aomame:
She reads and watched the playground until she goes to sleep, waiting for Tengo to come back. One day there’s a knock on the door, asking for the person whose fake name is on the nameplate. Aomame takes out her pistol, and the person knocking explains that he is a television fee collector. Eventually the man leaves, but Aomame feels wary about the situation.
Aomame begins learning Spanish – just in case. She dreams about thunder, about being nude on the Metropolitan Expressway, and of being in motion.
Tamaru calls and tells her that since the television fees are up to date, no one should be knocking on the door – is it a clerical error? Aomame asks Tamaru for a pregnancy test along with a book on pregnancy and menstruation; even though she thinks she’s pregnant (her period is three weeks late) she doesn’t know how it could have happened. The Dowager promises her that she will do everything in her power to protect her.
The television fee collector returns; he knocks and yells through the door, telling her that she won’t be able to escape paying her fees forever. Eventually, though, he leaves. Aomame sits outside after he goes, knowing that there is something inside her – perhaps a dohta, perhaps a maza.
Tuesday, before her suppliers return, Aomame writes to Tamaru to let him know the television fee collector has returned. She received her pregnancy test and learns that she is indeed pregnant. Believing that by killing the Leader life was formed inside her, she prays to God for help.
She wonders if Tengo might be the father, but can’t imagine how that could be the case. Tamaru calls to tell her that the television fee agent assigned to her area does not remember knocking on her door; therefore the man who has been knocking at her door is an imposter. Aomame tells him that she is pregnant. She falls asleep and when she wakes up, knows that she will safely bring the child into the world.
Nurse Omura thinks that it is kind that Tengo is reading to his father, and asks if she can sit in and listen. Tengo agrees, and continues with Isak Dinesen’s “Out of Africa” (WHY?)
Every evening, Tengo calls Fuka-Eri to check up on her. The fee collector continues to visit, and Fuka-Eri continues not to answer. (Same collector as the one visiting Aomame?) Tengo tries calling Komatsu, but he still cannot be reached. Finally, he comes back to his office, seeming different and more withdrawn. Tengo is invited out to dinner with Nurse Omura, Nurse Adachi, and Nurse Tamura. The three mildly berate him about his previous relationship with the older woman, telling him that someone like that normally doesn’t just cut off contact, which leaves an ominous feeling in Tengo.
Nurse Kumi Adachi and Tengo are drunk after their dinner – she invites him back to her place to smoke pot. While he is high, he sees a girl who asks Tengo to find her.
When he wakes up, he and Kumi are in bed together. She tells him that she has been reincarnated, and also tells him, before he goes back to sleep, that he needs to leave before the exit is blocked. Tengo now knows he is in a cat town, and that there is something there that he needs to find.
Tengo packs up to go back home and returns to the sanitarium to say goodbye to his father. He speaks to him, telling him about the summer and, convinced that it his father knocking on his door collecting television fees, tells him that it is no longer his job and he needs to stop.
On the train home, he realizes he will never see the “cat town” again. At home, Tengo finds that Fuka-Eri is gone, leaving the apartment immaculately clean and tidy. There’s no note, but he learns she left one with the friend who has been subbing for him at cram school. Tengo thinks about Fuka-Eri’s words, that Aomame is nearby. As he walks around, he decides he wants to go somewhere where he can see the two moons.
Some thoughts/favorite things:
So many “twos.” Two fathers, a father-son duo, Aomame/Tengo, two worlds, two moons, mazas and dohtas…
I’m still uncertain as to why Ushikawa has his own chapters now, unless it’s purely a technical thing to allow Murakami to tell us more about Aomame and Tengo.
Nice touch from Ushikawa using Occam’s razor to figure things out.
The dissipation of hate/anger from Aomame: “The anger she had felt before, like a hide tide rising within her – the overwrought emotions that sometimes made her want to smack her fists against the closest wall – had vanished before she’d realized it. She wasn’t sure why, but those feelings were entirely gone. She was grateful for this. As much as possible, she wanted never to hurt anyone, ever again. Just as she didn’t want to hurt herself.”
“This is what it means to live on. When granted hope, a person uses it as fuel, as a guidepost to life. It is impossible to live without hope.”
Is the NHK bill collector Tengo’s father? What does he really want?
Why Isak Dinesen? Is it linked to his reading of Chekhov?
The Macbeth reference. The three witches. Something wicked this way comes. Open, locks. Whoever knocks! – Why are those the only lines he remembers?
Ushikawa’s line “As long as I have these talents, no matter what sort of weird world I find myself in, I’ll survive.” – does that link him with Aomame and Tengo?
“Now much I can do about it,” she told herself. “I’m not even sure if this world with two moons in the sky is the real reality or not, So it shouldn’t be so strange, should it? That in a world like this, if I fall asleep and dream, I find it hard to distinguish dream from reality? And let’s not forget I’ve killed a few men with my own hands. I’m being chased by fanatics who aren’t about to give up, and I’m hiding out. How could I not be tense, and afraid? I can still feel the sensation, in my hands, of having murdered somebody. Maybe I’ll never be able to sleep soundly the rest of my life. Maybe that’s the responsibility I have to bear, the price I have to pay.”
The dreams: Thunder (the night she killed Leader/got pregnant?), the expressway (the transition between the two worlds) and the rambling incoherent one…
“There are a lot of doors in the world, and this one is not bad at all.”
“But in the end you won’t be able to escape. Someone will come and open this door.”
“She brought her hand down to her abdomen, shut her eyes, and listened carefully, trying to pick up the voice. Something was definitely alive inside her. A small, living something. She knew it.
Dohta, she whispered.
Maza, something replied.”
The whole hashish scene with Tengo and Kumi was pretty great. As is her having read Air Chrysalis.
Kumi’s smiley t-shirt. GREAT touch.
“My brain is vibrating.”
Being reborn. Leaving before the exit is blocked.
Aomame’s breaking her pregnancy down to her chorionic gonadotropin levels.
Would climbing back UP the emergency staircase work?
“The rules of the world are loosening up.”
Where did the three nurses go?
What happened to him on the train ride away from “Cat Town?” The sweat, the awful smell in his mouth…
From Strecher, continuing from my last post:
“Two scenes particularly stand out as significant in this regard, both recurring in book 3. The first comes early in the volume, while Tengo’s father still lives and Tengo spends the night with a woman named Adachi Kumi, one of the nurses who is caring for his father. Their night is potentially sexual – Adachi Kumi lies in bed with Tengo, rubbing her lush pubic hair against his thigh – and yet they do not have sex; instead, they smoke hashish (a first for Murakami characters), and Kumi, after confiding to Tengo that she can remember dying once before, urges him, in all seriousness, to ‘get out of this place while the exit is still unblocked’ [MY NOTE: Memories of Kafka on the Shore?] Much later in the work [MILD SPOILER ALERT] after Tengo’s father has died, Kumi clarifies that she was strangled to death on a chilly, rainy, lonely night. This, we have since learned through another character, is precisely how Tengo’s mother died, and we can hardly be blamed for wondering whether Adachi Kumi, now existing in the land of the dead, looking after Tengo’s father until his death, is not actually the spirit of Tengo’s mother.
In the physical world of ‘1Q84′, on the other hand, we find that the same kinds of mysterious conduits – what I term wormholes – that functioned so cleverly in Kafka on the Shore are even more explicitly depicted in this later work. We never quite see how Kafka’s inner shadow makes the metaphysical journey between Shikoku and Tokyo to emerge in Nakata’s physical self; we know only that it has happened, resulting in the death of Tamura Koji/’Johnny Walker.’ By comparison, in 1Q84 Murakami selects his symbolic imagery more carefully, turning the process into a highly sterile, ritualistic act of reproduction.
The most critical part of Fukaeri’s narrative concerns the kuki sanagi, or ‘air chrysalis,’ as the English translation has it, referring to a kind of cocoon. According to her story, the heroine (presumably Fukaeri herself) is punished for failing to look after a dying goat by being placed, along with the goat’s corpse, into an underground room. As she languishes there, the ‘Little People’ emerge from the mouth of the goat’s corpse and teach the girl how to spin a cocoon out of the air. Upon completion of the cocoon, it is opened, and out comes a perfect copy of the heroine. Similar to the room in which Asai Eri is trapped in After Dark, this ‘cocoon’ may be viewed as a real and metaphorical image of the womb, though this process of procreation is unnatural indeed, for it is sterile, involving no intercourse, an ‘immaculate’ conception in every sense.
If the purpose of the air chrysalis is to create human replicas, for what purpose is this done? We receive one clue near the end of book 1, in a rather unsettling scene involving a little girl named Tsubasa, allegedly one of the Leader’s rape victims, now under the care of the old woman who directs Aomame’s activities as an assassin. Tsubasa’s case is unusual even in the old woman’s experience, for her reproductive organs – particularly her uterus – have been damaged virtually beyond repair. The reasons for this are revealed only when Tsubasa is unwatched:
‘At length, her mouth opens slowly, and the Little People emerge one after the other. They appear, one by one, looking cautiously around themselves. If the old woman had awakened she would probably have been able to see them, but she was deeply asleep…When they came out of Tsubasa’s mouth, they were no larger than her little finger, but once they have fully emerged they expand, like pieces of inflatable furniture, until they are about thirty centimeters tall. All wear the same unremarkable clothing, and their faces are without any distinguishing characteristics, so one cannot tell them apart.’
Like the goat in Fukaeri’s narrative, Tsubasa is a replica of an original, and her function is to transport the Little People from one place to another. As it turns out, however, the Little People are not the only ones who have access to this means of transport. On the night of the Leader’s death at the hands of Aomame, Fukaeri herself becomes the conduit by which Tengo and Aomame are joined. In an atmosphere rich with metaphysical markers, Tengo senses that something is different on this night; ‘the air was dripping with moisture, and he felt that the world was marching steadily toward a dark end.’ In this perfect mixture of fertility (moisture) and death (the dark end of the world), Fukaeri enters his bedroom, and Tengo experiences an erection like no other he has ever known. Not wishing to commit an act of immorality with Fukaeri, who is only seventeen and under his protection, he ‘switches tracks’ in his mind, taking refuge in the sterile world of mathematics, eventually falling asleep. Upon awakening, he finds himself naked and unable to move, his erection unchanged. A now naked Fukaeri climbs atop him, and he is struck by how artificial her sexual organs look. ‘Where her pubic hair should have been there was only a mound of smooth white skin. The whiteness of the flesh emphasized too much how defenseless she was down there. Her legs were spread, so he could see her vagina. Like her ears, it looked like something that had just been constructed. And maybe it really had just been constructed.’ Using this newly formed canal to ‘envaginate’ Tengo’s penis, Fukaeri gyrates upon him until he ejaculates, sending forth his semen into the wormhole. As we later realize, it is at precisely this same moment that Aomame, on the other side of Tokyo, is using her weapon – a homemade, needle-sharp ice-pick tool – to pierce the Leader’s neck, pricking him at the base of the brain and ending his life. We presume that this forms the other side of the wormhole and that Tengo’s seed has passed through the needlelike end of Aomame’s tool into her hand and thus to her womb. Both Fukaeri and the Leader, then, have functioned as gateways to the wormhole, perceiver and receiver.
Interestingly, Fukaeri’s manipulation of Tengo’s penis – note that he is entirely in the passive position – is a verbatim reenactment of the Leader’s ritualistic manipulation by members of his cult using their own daughters. Whether these girls are their actual daughters or merely replicas of them, created in cocoons similar to the kuki sanagi Fukaeri describes, is never made clear, but in the end this is less important than the fact that the female sexual organs and womb serve explicitly as passageways to the ‘other world,’ either as wormholes that connect people in disparate locations (as in Fukaeri’s case) or as living cocoons, human hothouses in which to grow new life. What they seek to grow, presumably, is a new ‘chosen one,’ a sacred being who will take the Leader’s place as the ‘one who hears the voices’ of the Little People In this sense, when Aomame’s classmates teased her as a child, calling her ‘the One,’ they were unwittingly hitting the nail squarely on the head, for Aomame is ‘the One,’ possessing the sacred Womb that will produce an heir to the Leader, the next generation of divinely connected beings. And it has all been accomplished through the immaculate remote control of the metaphysical wormhole.
What we have seen in this chapter, above all, is that the metaphysical world as it is conceived in Murakami Haruki’s fiction has developed quite significantly since its inception in Hear the Wind Sing, and yet in other ways it has remained very much as it ever was. Certainly this realm has lost none of its underlying tension since Pinball, 1973, wherein Boku enters the freezing darkness of a chicken warehouse, wondering whether he will remain trapped there forever. From the terror of ‘dead man’s curve’ near the end of A Wild Sheep Chase, to the seemingly endless forest road to Naoko’s sanatorium in Norwegian Wood, to the gloomy corridors of the unconscious hotel in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, to the bedroom Tamura Kafka occupies at the back of the Komori Memorial Library in Kafka on the Shore, or the darkened hotel room wherein Aomame cuts the power to the Leader’s brain, these places are never insignificant, never innocent. No one ever ‘simply exists’ in Murakami’s metaphysical realm; even Okada Toru, sitting for days at the bottom of his dry well in the heart of Tokyo (a real and figurative conduit through the very center of Japanese society), experiences visions, considers major life problems, confronts his instinctive, primordial fear of darkness, loneliness, and death.”
My next post: WEDNESDAY, October 29, Book Three, Chapters 13-21