1Q84 Revealed

By posted at 4:05 am on June 1, 2009 5

Haruki Murakami’s new novel 1Q84 has come out swinging. With an initial, combined print run of 680,000 copies, publisher Shinchosha believes the two volume book is on track to sell a million and “become a social phenomenon.” Released two days early (May 27th) in Tokyo and the Kansai region, the book has already sold over 100,000 copies, and the Yomiuri Shimbun reports it has set a new sales record for Amazon Japan.

What’s the book about? Murakami’s publisher Shinchosha’s website compares it to Orwell’s masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, stating “Where Orwell published a novel about the future, Murakami approaches the year from the opposite direction, creating an alternate past.” Apparently, that’s where the similarities end, however. 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. So what about that mysterious Q? It stands for the English word “question mark.” Apparently the explanation comes on page 202: “1Q84 – that’s what I’ll call this new world. Q is the Q from ‘question mark.’ That which creates a question” (translation by Daniel Morales at, who is reporting on both his reading experience and his excellent taste in beer). As in, what the hell is this book about?

Early reviews (i.e. have been mixed, with some rhapsodizing over its “dream-like” qualities and others deriding it as “standard” Murakami fare. A few reviewers, however, have decided to hold their judgment until (drum roll) the rest of the book is released. They theorize that we can expect at least one and maybe even two more volumes. Their speculation is backed up by a number of compelling clues:

1. Murakami is said to have referred to this as his longest novel, yet at its current length, it is 127 pages shorter than the Japanese version of the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’s astounding 1,182 pages (which makes you realize how much must have been cut in the US translation.)

2. Apparently the second volume ends on a pseudo-cliffhanger.

3. The book’s two volumes are labeled “One” and “Two,” contrary to the Japanese convention of referring to the first volume of a two volume set as “up” and the second “down.” This follows the same pattern as the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which was released in three volumes in Japan.

Of course, this may just be wishful thinking. There has been no official confirmation of further volumes. We’ll let you know if anything interesting turns up.

See also: Murakami’s 1Q84 is a Heavyweight, Murakami Fans Rejoice: Counting Down to 1Q84

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5 Responses to “1Q84 Revealed”

  1. brooks
    at 7:39 am on June 1, 2009

    Wow. I had no idea that Wind-Up Bird Chronicle had been "cut" for the English translation. I really loved that book and now I'm curious about what I might have missed! Or what I may have missed in other Murakami novels?

  2. willsy
    at 6:38 pm on July 21, 2009

    Murakami, you are a genius.

  3. Top 60 Japanese words/phrases of 2009 ::: Pink Tentacle
    at 3:08 am on November 16, 2009

    […] 1Q84 is described as a complex and surreal tale that touches on themes of murder, history, cult religion, violence, family ties and love. The title of the work is a reference to the year 1984, which the characters experience in an alternate reality. It is also a nod to Orwell’s 1984, as the Japanese word for the number nine is pronounced “kyū.” But unlike Orwell’s 1984, which concerned the future, Murakami’s 1Q84 approaches the year from the opposite direction, creating an alternate past. [More] […]

  4. ExcerptReader
    at 4:56 pm on September 10, 2010

    haruki murakami’s 1q84 might not be available in english yet, but it did get an english review @ 010/08/excerpt-haruki-murakamis-1q84.htm l

  5. 1Q84 and Other Things Murakami | HTMLGIANT
    at 3:45 am on March 31, 2011

    […] the Japanese word for ‘Q,’ apparently, being a homonym for the number 9.” And early talk at The Millions about the book’s Japanese publication offers […]

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