Haruki Murakami


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1Q84 Summary

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Released in three volumes from 2009-2010, 1Q84 is a dystopian novel by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. The events of 1Q84 take place in Tokyo during a fictionalized year of 1984, a nod to George Orwell’s masterpiece. The story follows a professional killer, Aomame, who finds herself plunged into a parallel universe that she refers to as 1Q84, with the Q representing “question mark.” In 2011, the novel was released in English as one complete volume to much critical acclaim despite its 900-page count.

The third person omniscient narrative begins with Aomame catching a taxi in Tokyo. When the taxi becomes snarled in traffic, the driver suggests that Aomame leave the car and climb down an emergency escape, but he cautions that doing so may alter the nature of reality.

Aomame follows his suggestion and arrives at a hotel in Shibuya. She poses as a hotel employee to murder a guest, sticking the man with a needle as to leave no trace of the cause of death.

Aomame notices unusual things around her, like how Tokyo police officers are carrying automatic guns when they usually carry revolvers. Other subtle differences shake her, and she begins to question her memories. She searches the archives of newspapers only to find several recent events of which she has no memory. One story is about a group of extremists standing off against police in Yamanashi Prefecture. Aomame concludes that she is in an alternate reality, which she dubs “1Q84.”

Tengo, a writer and teacher in Japan, is asked by his editor, Komatsu, to rewrite the manuscript Air Chrysalis. Komatsu’s plan is to submit the novella for a literary prize and promote the 17-year-old author, Fuka-Eri, as a new literary sensation.

Upon learning that the dyslexic Fuka-Eri has not written the manuscript on her own, Tengo is unsettled. Fuka-Eri takes Tengo to meet her guardian, Professor Ebisuno-sensei, or Sensei, to learn more about the origins of her story and her background. Tengo learns that Fuka-Eri’s parents were members of a commune called Takashima when she was a small child. Her father, Tamotsu Fukada, was Ebisuno’s colleague, but they had many disagreements about the commune. Fukada thought of it as a utopia while Ebisuno believed it turned people into unthinking robots.

Fukada and 30 members of Takashima founded a new commune called Sakigake, but disagreements split the commune into two factions. The radical members formed yet another new commune, Akebono, which eventually had a gunfight with police in Yamanashi Prefecture.

Tengo learns that Fuka-Eri came to Sensei under mysterious circumstances, as she simply appeared on Sensei’s doorstep one day and refused to speak about what happened to her at the commune. Sensei fears that her parents are both dead.

Fuka-Eri creates her story, Air Chrysalis, during the last seven years spent with Sensei. Because she is unable to write it herself, she asks Sensei’s daughter, Azami, to help. The story is about a girl’s life in a commune, where she met a group of mystical beings, or Little People. As Tengo learns more about Fuka-Eri, he suspects that the events described in the novel are real.

The narrative shifts back to Aomame, who is in a business relationship with an older, wealthy woman called the Dowager. The Dowager runs a shelter for women who have been victims of domestic violence. It was under the Dowager’s command that Aomame killed the hotel guest, and it is common practice for the Dowager to pay Aomame to murder men who have been abusive toward women.

For her next assignment, Aomame meets a ten-year-old girl named Tsubasa. Tsubasa and her parents are members of the newest commune, Sakigake. Tsubasa is sexually abused by Leader and the Dowager rescues her, keeping her in a safe house. As Tsubasa is sleeping, the Little People of Air Chrysalis appear from Tsubasa’s mouth to create an air chrysalis, a type of cocoon made from strands pulled straight out of the air. Tsubasa mysteriously disappears from the safehouse.

The Dowager is heavily invested in Tsubasa and wants to adopt her, so her disappearance is devastating. She researches Sakigake and finds that there is widespread evidence of abuse in young girls. The Dowager asks Aomame to murder Leader, who is reported to have been the abuser. Aomame meets up with Leader, who turns out to be a very large man with painful chronic muscle problems. During their discussion, Leader reveals that he has special powers and is the father of Fuka-Eri and. He knows Aomame was sent to kill him, so he offers her a choice that essentially trades her life for Tengo’s. Aomame accepts and kills Leader before going into hiding.

During the novel, the various characters notice a second moon, a green-colored orb that functions as a reminder of the alternate reality in which they are living.

Aomame and Tengo’s worlds begin to collide. Sakigake hires a private investigator, Ushikawa, to follow Tengo to learn more about the manuscript in his possession. After Leader is murdered, Ushikawa also attempts to locate Aomame. He decides to stake out Tengo’s apartment first and rents out a room in the same building. He sees Fuka-Eri coming and going from the building. She knows that she is being watched and leaves a note for Tengo.

Ushikawa also sees Aomame enter the building and decides to report this information to Sakigake in the morning. Dowager’s body guard, Tamaru, sneaks into Ushikawa’s room and demands information on what Ushikawa knows about Tengo and Aomame. Tamaru ends up killing Ushikawa, fearful that he is a threat to Aomame, the Dowager, and himself.

The investigation allows Aomame and Tengo, former classmates, to reconnect. They shared a significant moment as children in which Aomame tightly held Tengo’s hand when no other children were present. The two have been in love with each other for the past 20 years. The double moon disappears, and the novel ends as they stand in a hotel room grasping each other’s hand, looking at the single moon.