Haruki Murakami

, /10

Haruki Murakami (Japan, 1949)

"Kaze no Uta o Kike/ Hear the Wind Sing" (1979)

synopsis forthcoming

"Hitsuji o Meguru Bo-ken/ A Wild Sheep Chase" (1982) +

synopsis forthcoming

"Sekai no Owari to Ha-doboirudo Wanda-rando/ Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" (1985) ++ is a blend of fairy-tale cartoons, hard-boiled thriller, film noir and science fiction. All the characters are unnamed. The story is (or, better, the two stories are) told in the first person as if it were a diary. "Implausible" doesn't even come close to describing the nature of the plot. The plot is wildly redundant and implausible. Murakami does just about anything he likes to do, regardless of what helps the flow and what doesn't. Influences from Pynchon and Vonnegut abound, but without the sardonic and satirical overtones. By the end we discover what we already knew (that the dreamworld is created in the mind of the protagonist and that the protagonist would rather live in that dreamworld of people with no emotions than in the real world of jobs, scheming and prostitutes). But maybe that's precisely the point of Murakami's fiction: to say nothing in a wildly implausible way, thus mirroring the human condition.

The protagonist, a 35-year-old male, takes a very slow elevator to his business appointment in the middle of Tokyo. He kills time by counting the change in his pocket, a process for which he employs a technique that involves the two hemispheres of the brain, a case of split personality. He is welcomed by a young woman who is both beautiful and chubby. She cannot speak but he can read lips. She takes him in a long corridor, then opens a closet that leads him (properly dressed) into a river beyond which is the secret laboratory of her grandfather. The old man explains that he is afraid of INKlings and especially of Semiotecs. The latter are trying to get his data and that's why he decided to hire a Calcutec (that's what the protagonist is) to protect his data. The data are about sounds of bones. The scientist has shelves full of skulls of every possible mammalian species and has a theory about how to remove sound from the world. That's why his granddaughter cannot speak: he was experimenting on her and forgot to restore her to normal speaking conditions. The protagonist explains that the Calcutecs for the System and the Semiotecs for the Factory. The Factory is basically the equivalent of the Mafia in the world of information. The grandfather brings the protagonist sandwiches made by the girl and is pleased that the protagonist enjoys them. When he's done, the protagonist is escorted by the girl back to the elevator and she starts asking him questions about sex. She's still a virgin and she's only 17, whereas the protagonist is 35. She asks him whether he'd have sex with her and he says no, which she suspects is because she's fat, but he tells her that he simply does not like to sleep with women he knows. He was married and is now divorced. Her grandfather told her she should lose her virginity with a man over 30. She also gives him a gift from the scientist.

This story alternates with a fairy tale about a land full of unicorns and run by a Gatekeepr who directs the protagonist, a dream reader, to a library of old dreams. At the library of old dreams, his first task is to read a dream about the skull of a unicorn. He tells the librarian that he doesn't remember where he came from: his memory was erased when they separared him from from his shadow. The protagonist had to leave his shadown outside the town's wall, just like every other person in that town, and was told by the Gatekeeper that he would never be allowed to leave town again.

The two stories intersect when the protagonist, now at home, opens the package and finds a skull, the skull of a unicorn. The skull must be valuable because the Semiotecs immediately try to steal it from his house. The protagonist asks the librarian to bring him a book on unicorns and explains that he cannot leave his house (he cannot leave the skull unguarded). The librarian, a woman, accepts and soon they are in bed together, except that he cannot get an erection. The librarian's book explains that one unicorn skull was once found and the protagonist now believes that he has that one precious specimen. He hides it to avoid that the Semiotecs can steal it.

In parallel, the story of the Gatekeeper continues. The protagonist catches his shadow working with the Gatekeeper. When he has a few seconds alone with the protagonist, the shadow tells him to make a map of the town. The Gatekeeper tells him that that town is the "End of the World". He keeps reading dreams via skulls at the library while mapping the city. He is told by an old colonel to stay away from the woods, where the Woodfolks live. And, when he ventures there, he almost dies of a strong fever.

Back to the Tokyo story, the protagonist explains that he is licensed for two tasks by the System: data laundering and shuffling. Shuffling was made possible by reorganizing the core of his consciousness around a password, "End of the World". When shuffling occurs, his consciousness is borrowed to perform a task that he's unaware of.

The granddaughter of the scientist calls him because her father has been kindapped by the INKlings. She believes that only the protagonist can open the door of the laboratory. The protagonist rushes to the laboratory but the girl has disappeared too. When he gets back home, two men break into his apartment, the short Junior and the colossal Big Boy. He fears they are Semiotecs but instead they tell him that they are independents who have been spying on the scientist. They know that the scientist used to work for the System (like the protagonist) where he designed the very methods that the protagonist and many other Calcutecs employ. Then the scientist opened his own laboratory in an area infested by the "Infra-Nocturnal Kappa" (INKlings) who live in the subways and sewers, basically using the INKlings are a natural protection against the Semiotecs. The two intruders leave after demolishing his most valued possessions, apparently for no reason, despite having sworn to him that they were there to help him. Junior tells him that agents from the System will be coming to investigate the skull and the protagonist is supposed to say that he knows anothing about it. The System will assume that the destruction was caused by Semiotecs interrogating the protagonist, and, in fact, Junior cuts the protagonist with a knife to make it look like he was tortured. It turns out that the Semiotecs never tried to steal his skull: it was Junior who hired someone to steal his skull. For mysterious reasons, the protagonist accepts to lie to the System (risking his life) that he never had a skull and was tortured by Semiotecs, i.e. he becomes in accomplice in whatever Junior and Big Boy are planning that they did not even share with him.

The protagonist is still asleep when the scientist's chubby granddaughter wakes him up: grandfather has disappeared and the world will end in 36 hours if they can't find him. She knows nothing about the world because she's been living with grandfather all her life, but she knows about him: the protagonist is the only survivor of the 26 people who were surgically trained to shuffle data. That's why grandfather selected him as the "key". When they reach the old scientist's laboratory, they find that it has been devastated by someone, and not by INKlings (they would live a nasty smell behind). The girl is convinced that her father must have escaped in time. They follow a secret passage that leads to a maze following clues left behind by the scientist and reach a subterranean mountain, the holy sanctuary of the INKlings. The girl and the protagonist barely escape the leeches and the rising waters and reach the place where the grandfather is hiding.

Meanwhile, the story of the dreamreader continues. He learns that, when beasts die, the Gatekeeper uses their skulls to hold old dreams, but he is not told why. The Gatekeeper allows the protagonist to visit his shadow, who is still hoping to find a way to escape from the "End of the World".

Back to Tokyo's underground, the protagonist demands an explanation from the old scientist. The scientist explains that his neuroscience experiments led to a technique to extract core consciousness from living subjects like him. Those core consciousnesses are stored in the vaults of the System. Each box has a title, and the protagonist's box is titled "The End of the World". The scientist knows why the protagonist survived the experiment and the other 25 people died: the protagonist is a case of split personality, and somehow this helped him survive the experiment. The System will probably use him as the model for the next generation of experiments. The scientist too wanted to experiment on him. Unfortunately, now that the Semiotecs have stolen all his notes he is unable to stop the process he set in motion in the protagonist's mind, and the protagonist will "die". What will actually die is the current consciousness. The protagonist will survive in the other world that the scientist has created inside his subconscious, the "End of the World", a town surrounded by a wall in which unicorns exist.

The chapters about the mythical town and the chapters about the mad scientist alternate methodically.

The protagonist in the End of the World obtains permission from the Gatekeeper to visit the Power Station at the edge of the woods. The librarian accompanies him because she suspects that her mother is lost in the woods. The Power Station is run by a solitary caretaker who collects musical instruments and donates one to the protagonist, a tiny accordion.

The scientist apologizes to the protagonist for having failed him. Now the protagonist is stuck with a choice between dying and "immortality" in the End of the World world. The protagonist and the scientist's granddaughter leave and, following a complex path, reach the city again. The girl asks to sleep at the protagonist's (demolished) place. Along the way she explains that the System and the Factory may be run by the same organization, although one is supposed to protect information and one is out to steal it. If they were run by the same organization, that organization would be able to profit enormously.

In the fairy tale world, the protagonist's shadow is getting weak but nonetheless hopes to find a way to escape soon. The trouble is that the protagonist is beginning to like this dream world and is falling in love with the librarian. The shadow warns him that life in the town is not life: everything is artificial, people don't have emotions, it is absolute boring perferction. Peace reigns because the inhabitants don't have a mind. Their mind has been extinguished precisely by the dreamreader. The protagonist decides that the shadow is right: it is better to go back to his former, real self.

The scientist's very young granddaughter would like to have sex with the protagonist, but the protagonist prefers to sleep with the librarian. She too is divorced. However, the younger one installs herself in the protagonist's apartment, while her grandfather has eloped to Finland. She even chases away Junior and Bib Boy, who have retured to look for the protagonist. One morning the protagonist and the librarian find the glowing unicorn skull.

In the dream world the protagonist carries his weak shadow all the way to the place where they can escape but then he refuses to follow: he has been reading the librarian's mind and is now unable to leave her.

The granddaughter of the scientist promises to freeze the protagonist once he loses consciousness, hoping that some day her grandfather will find a way to resuscitate him. The protagonist drives to the waterfront and lets himself fall asleep.

In the last chapter the protagonist admits to his shadow that he created the dreamworld and now he wants to remain in it forever.

"Noruwei no Mori/ Norwegian Wood" (1987)

synopsis forthcoming

"Nejimaki-dori Kuronikuru/ The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" (1995)

synopsis forthcoming

"Umibe no kafuka/ Kafka on the Shore" (2002) + is a post-modern novel that mixes fairy tale, brute violence and wild eroticism. With references to Greek tragedy it tells the story of how two unrelated men became one, thanks to chance and to the writer's arbitrary decisions. It also contains veiled haringues against intolerance that is often disguised as humanitarian cause (whether nazism, feminism or communism). The lame ending is disappointing to say the least after so many surreal events and narrative inventions.

The protagonist is a 15-year old kid who runs away from home. His friend Crow warns him that now he needs to be the toughest 15-year old in the world. He steals his father's money and a picture of him and his sister, whom he has not seen in ages and doesn't remember. On the bus to a random destination he meets an older girl who could be his sister: she has not seen her brother in many years. He arrives at his random destination, takes a cheap room and spends the day reading books at a remote library. The girl at the hotel's desk is friendly and helpful, and he wonders whether she could be his sister (then masturbates at night thinking of her). The boy keeps giving his name as Kafka (which means "crow" in Czech) and we learn that he feels like he is constantly surrounded by Kafka's execution machine ("The Penal Colony").
Nakata is an old man who talks to a cat, whom he names Oshima. Nakata has lost his own cat, Goma, and is looking for it all over town. Oshima, sadly, cannot help him.
Meanwhile other chapters deal with an episode that took place just before the end of World War II, when 16 children who were out in the fields hunting mushrooms with their teacher suddenly fell unconscious to the ground. All of them but one recovered after a couple of hours, as mysteriously as they had fallen. Experts were brought in to study the phenomenon. Since the teacher had reported seeing a glittering plane in the sky, the first hypothesis was that the USA had dropped a chemical weapon, but this soon proved to be insufficient to explain the fact that the children were perfectly healthy. Only one child, Nakata, didn't recover and spent two weeks at a military hospital. His bodily functions were normal. It looked like his spirit had left his body but the body continued to live normally. He eventually woke up from his long sleep after two weeks, in perfect health conditions like the other children, as if nothing had happened, but he had completely lost his memory. The case is considered a military secret by the USA, that inherited the original studies conducted by Japanese doctors. The experts now think that it must have been a case of mass hypnosis.
Kafka wakes up in the woods. He doesn't know how he got there and for how long he has been unconscious. He is covered with blood, not his own but someone else's. Terrified that he might have committed a crime, he calls Sakura and asks for help. She lets him stay at her place. This time he tells her all the truth. She tells him that she too ran away once but was caught right away. Then she decided to become a hairdresser. They cuddle and she even masturbates him to help him relax, but she tells him she is loyal to her boyfriend. Kafka's mom left him when he was four and took with her the sister, who was an adopted child: why would a mother leave behind the biological child and prefer the adopted one? Kafka checks out from the hotel but then decides he can't stay at Sakura's place either.
Meanwhile, the old Nakata is interviewing a Siamese cat named Mimi. Mimi knows that a tall man has been capturing cats in a vacant lot. Nakata now needs to find this man.
Twenty-eight years after the fact the teacher who took the children mushroom hunting during World War II wrote to a distinguished scholar a letter to confess something that she didn't tell anyone at the time. Her husband was at war, but the night before that incident she had felt a very realistic orgasm thinking of him. The day of the excursion unexpectedly her period had come. She had hidden in the shrubs to clean herself but Nakata had found the bloody towels. She lost her temper and hit him in front of the other children. Then the children fell unconscious. Nakata had always been a good diligent students but he never smiled.
Kafka confides his situation to Oshima, and Oshima helps him apply for the position of assistant, a position that will allow the kid to sleep in the library and make some money. While they wait for the director of the library to formalize this position, Oshima takes Kafka to his home, a cabin in the mountains. Oshima is an hemophiliac who has to be careful never to get injured or he could bleed to death. He likes to listen to Schubert.
Nakata is looking for Goma because that's his job. After he discovered he could talk to cats, he began to work for families who lost their cat. One family hired him to find this specific cat. He spends a few days in the vacat lot waiting for the mysterious tall man. Eventually a giant talking dog commands him to follow it. After a long walk they get to the adobe of a man who calls himself Johnnie Walker like the icon of the whiskey brand. This man confesses that he spent his life killing cats in order to collect their souls, which he needs in order to build a magic flute that will in turn help him catch even bigger souls. However, he has now lost any interest in this project and simply wants to die. Unable to stop or kill himself, Johnnie Walker wants Nakata to kill him. He proceeds to provoke the old simpleton. He takes one cat at a time out of a bag, cuts them apart, eats their heart and then severes their head. When the evil man pulls Mimi out of the bag, Nakata can't stand still anymore and stabs him repeatedly. Johnnie Walker dies laughing. Nakata frees Mimi and Goma and then faints.
Kafka, hired at the library, makes the acquaintance of Lady Saeki, the director. As a young woman, she was madly in love with a young man. They were separated and she composed a song, "Kafka on the Shore", that became a national hit. The boyfriend died at 20, killed by fanatical leftists who had mistaken him for someone else. Saeki disappeared for 25 years. Then one day she came back just when the family of the dead boy was looking for someone to run their private library. What she did in those 25 years remains a mystery. Kafka is given the room that used to be the room where she and the boy had their love encounters before they were separated.
Nakata wakes up in the empty lot without remembering how he got there. The two cats are next to him, which proves that it was not just a dream. But there is no blood on his clothes, which would prove that it was just a dream. He also finds out that he cannot talk to the cats anymore. The good simpleton walks into a police station and reports the murder he has just committed. He also predicts that it will rain fish. The police officer sends him away, thinking he is a madman. The following day the police officer reads in the papers that a famous sculptor has been stabbed to death and later it does rain fish. However, the police officer is too afraid to lose his job and keeps silent.
When two obnoxious feminists walk into the library to complain that it is run in a sexist manner, Oshima reveals that he is technically a woman, a woman who behaves like a man, who has anal sex but not vaginal sex.
Nakata decides to travel to an unknown destination. He cannot read after his childhood incident wiped out his memory so he has to rely on the help of others. Several truckers give him rides. At one stop he approaches bikers who are beating a man to death. He opens the umbrella and leeches start raining from the sky.
An article in the newspaper talks about the sculptor who was murdered: he is Kafka's father. The police are now looking for the teenage son who disappeared shortly before the murder. By now, Kafka has told Oshima the whole story of his life.
The same papers talk about the mysterious episodes of raining fish and raining leeches. Oshima wonders if these are coincidences. Kafka tells him of a terrible prophesy that his father made when Kafka was still a child: that Kafka would grow to kill his father and sleep with both his mother and his sister. Oshima objects that Kafka did not kill his father, therefore the prophesy was wrong, but Kafka tells his of the day when he woke up in the woods covered with blood. Oshima realizes the reason why Kafka ran away from his father: he is running away from that terrible prophesy. The boy is terrified that he might end up sleeping with his mother and his sister.
Nakata doesn't know where he is going and why he wants to go there. At every step something tells him where to go next. After the incident that left him incapable of any complex task, he worked all his life making furniture. When that business folded, his family helped him obtain a subsidy for the mentally handicapped. He is lonely and poor, but content with what he has.
In the middle of the night Kafka has the vision of a gorgeous girl in his room. He realizes he is seeing the young Saeki. He falls in love with her, but at the same time he is afraid she might be his mother. He studies the hit record and realizes that there are so many references to his own life.
Nakata is now heading towards Kafka's town, escorted by a good (and much younger) man, Hoshino, who helps him get by. Nakata has other skills: he fixes Hoshino's back by applying pressure on the bones that are not well aligned. Hoshino learns that the police are looking for the teenage son of the murdered sculptor. Nakata tells him that he is heading for the "entrance stone" (which is also in the lyrics of Saeki's song), but doesn't know where it is.
Kafka sees the ghost of young Saeki again and realizes he is madly jealous of the boy she loved. Later he meets the current middle-aged Saeki, who tells him that once she wrote a book about people struck by lightning. Kafka's father was struck by lightning before Kafka was born. It is plausible that they may have met when she was writing the book.
Nakata and Hoshino arrive at Kafka's town and start looking for the "entrance stone". Hoshino accidentally meets a man who impersonates Colonel Sanders, the icon of a multinational fast-food chain. This man is actually a pimp who wants Hoshino to hire one of his gorgeous prostitutes. Hoshino is not interested, but Sanders claims to know where the entrance stone is (and knows that Hoshino is after such a stone). Hoshino then accepts the deal: he sleeps with the gorgeous prostitute (at a favorable price), who quotes European philosophy while doing her job, and in return Sanders takes him to a shrine where the stone is. Hoshino wonders how Sanders knew about all this. Sanders replies that he is just an abstract concept, a narrative device to uphold the law of causality and make things happen in a story.
Meanwhile, Kafka sees the middle-aged Saeki enter his room at night, sleepwalking and unaware of what she is doing, getting undressed and making love to him. Kafka confides his odd Freudian theory to Oshima: Saeki must be his mother, and his father arranged things so that Kafka would some day sleep with her, and Kafka actually wants that to happen. At night she walks again into this room, but this time she's perfectly conscious of what she is doing, and she makes love to him. Then she drives away.
In the morning Nakata wakes up and finds the stone that Hoshino has hauled all the way to their hotel from the shrine. Nakata is convinced that he has to "open" the stone in order to become a normal human being again. He is obsessed that his shadown is only half of what it should be. Luckily, Nakata can now talk with the stone and gets directions on what to do next. Hoshino flips the stone over, i.e. opens it, but nothing happens. Hoshino has abandoned his job and decided to follow Nakata no matter what, as if Nakata were some kind of prophet.
Kafka and Saeki make love again. She is positive that she cannot be his mother. Oshima has figured out that they are lovers. Oshima tells Kafka that the police suspect an old man of his father's murder and that they suspect Kafka is somehow in cahoots with this old man. Kafka replies that he does not know this old man. Oshima thinks that Kafka should leave Saeki alone: Oshina thinks that she is dying and needs quiet. Oshima takes Kafka back to his cabin in the mountains.
Sanders (the narrative device) appears again to Hoshino and tells him that the cops are coming to arrest Nakata. Sanders gives Hoshino an address where to hide. Nakata tells Hoshino that he indeed murdered the sculptor. But now Nakata doesn't want to turn himself in anymore: he first wants to carry out his mission related to the entrance stone. Nakata asks Hoshino to drive around: he'll recognize the place when he sees it. Eventually he tells Hoshino to stop: they are in front of Saeki's library...
Kafka asleep alone in Oshima's cabin has a very realistic dream of raping Sakura in her own room. When he wakes up, he is convinced of having killed his father, had sex with his mother and raped his sister.
Nakata and Hoshino spend a day at the library and take the tour that Saeki offers to the public once a week. Later, suddenly, Nakata walks into her office to talk to her about the stone. She seems to know everything about the odd simpleton, and all about the entrance stone. He tells her that he killed Johnnie Walker, and she tells him that she slept with the 15-year old that Nakata feels sent him to kill Johnnie Walker. They both only have half a shadow. She gives him the memoirs that she has been writing and asks him to burn them. Later Oshima finds her dead at her desk.
Meanwhile Kafka has left Oshima's cabin and ventured again in the woods, more obsessed than ever with the fact that his mom abandoned him. He wants to convince himself (talking to his doppelganger Crow) that she did love him. He reaches a place guarded by two soldiers who disappeared during World War II. They escort it to the "entrance" that is normally closed. On the other side is a deserted town. They take him to a cabin that looks like Oshima's cabin, where he is attended by a 15-year old girl who looks like the young Saeki.
Nakata dies peacefully in his sleep right after burning Saeki's files. Hoshino doesn't know what to do with the body, nor with the entrance stone that needs to be closed. He decides to simply wait for something extraordinary to happen. He even starts talking to the stone and then one day he realizes he can talk to cats...
In a dream-like sequence the boy named Crow flies over the forest until he meets a man who has builds flutes out of the souls of live cats, and who plans to built a superflute out of all those flutes (the Johnnie Walker murdered by Nakata). He is in a limbo between life and death. Crow despises him and attacks him but the man keeps laughing at Crow. Eventually Crow eats the tongue of the man so he cannot laugh anymore: the silent laughter becomes the sound of a flute.
In the forest's cabin Kafka is visited by Saeki, not the young girl Saeki but the middle-aged dead Saeki who tells him to get out of the forest before the stone shuts the entrance and also asks him to keep her favorite painting for her. It's a painting of her and her boyfriend at the beach, and Kafka feels he himself was that boyfriend. Then she confesses that she abandoned her only child, and offers drops of her blood to Kafka. Kafka licks them and gets the strength to leave the place, again escorted by the two soldiers. Kafka finds himself in the middle of the night in Oshima's cabin.
The cat gives Hoshino the instructions that he was waiting for, but they ared a bit vague: he is supposed to kill something, but the cat doesn't know what. Hoshino finds out when he sees a strange animal crawl out of Nakata's mouth. Hoshino has to use the stone in order to kill this creature, and in doing so he also closes the entrance.
Oshima's brother Sada comes to the cabin to pick up Kafka and take him back to the library, where Oshima tells him of Saeki's death and that she left him the painting, as Kafka already learned from the ghost of Saeki herself. Kafka decides to go back to Tokyo and turn himself in (the police are still looking for him). Oshima offers him permanent employment if he ever wants to come back.

"1Q84" (2010) is a (sprawling) odd story that revolves around sex with ten-year old girls but artfully disguised as a fairy tale (or, better, an anime cartoon). It is written in a plain language that is not artsy at all, sometimes bordering on journalistic style and sometimes on anime's style. There are few redundant passages: almost every sentence adds facts to the plot. It is structured as two stories that alternate chapter after chapter. Up to about halfway the two stories are slowly converging and it is fascinating how they begin to reference each other. Midway an incredible leap of faith is required from the reader: too much explanation threatens to kill all the magic that has been built in the previous chapters, and it feels like Murakami himself didn't know what to do of the story (the girl commits suicide but then doesn't). The explanation simply makes no sense. We are left with a lame justification for the repeated, scientific rape of ten-year old girls and for two adults who masturbate thinking of ten-year old children and then eventually meet when she had gotten pregnant of him without having sex with him. If this is supposed to be the love story of two adults who search for each other, it's a wildly convoluted and perverted one, since each of them has had sex with many partners and not the cleanest of sex. The very premise of the story is silly: from the beginning the two protagonists know well that they are not in the real world, because they can see two moons. And the book is just too long, for a plot that basically does not reach any conclusion other than the trivial one (the happy ending).

In 1984 (the year of Orwell's famous book) a young woman, Aomame, is stuck in traffic. She has an important appointment. The taxi driver suggests she gets out of the car and climbs down the emergency stairway to a subway station, which she does. The taxi driver warns her ominously that "things are not what they seem" and begs her to remember that "there is only one reality".

Tengo is an aspiring writer whose mind does not work quite well: he can remember something that happened to him at an early age when most people's memory is not formed yet, but he also spaces out suddenly as if he is having a fit. His literary agent Komatsu called him to offer him a strange assignment: rewrite the awful story submitted by a 17-years old high-school student, Eriko Fukada, using the pen name "Fuka-Eri". Her style is terrible, but the editor believes that the idea is good and that Tengo can turn it into a masterpiece. Komatsu plans to submit the novel to a major literary prize claiming that it revealed a new genius. Tengo is reluctant to accept a scheme that is almost illegal: invent an author out of two authors.

Aomame, instead, is a woman with a very poor memory: she vaguely remembers the date (april 1984) and that she is 30-years old. She takes the subway, changes into a business dress, travels to a hotel, knocks at a room where an oil business man, Miyama, is trying to concentrate. She then coldly murders him with a technique that only her can practice and that leave no traces. The doctor will think it was a heart attack. Her motive seems to be to avenge what he did to her wife.

Tengo meets Fuka-Eri. It turns out she has seen him before because he lectures on math at her high school. Fuka-eri is mysterious: she doesn't care if the novel gets rewritten, she says she's not even the one who sent it in (but doesn't say who did), she says she didn't pick the title ("Air Chrysalis"), and she says that the "little people" of her novel really exist. She also wants him to meet someone else.

Tengo dislikes young girls and prefers to date mature women. His current girlfriend, Kyoko, is a married woman with two children.

Aomame meets a middle-aged businessman in a bar and invites him to have sex with her. She learns that policemen changed uniforms and now carry more powerful guns, although she could swear she just saw one in the old uniform with the old kind of gun. She also learns that the USA and the Soviet Union are establishing a permanent Moon station, another news that eluded her.

Tengo feels that Fuka-Eri did not write a novel: she simply recorded something that truly happened, which turns out to be a good plot for a novel. "Air Chrysalis" is about a little girl in a rural community who fails to protect a blind goal and is punished by being locked in a building with the rotting corpse from which "little people" come and go.

Aomame visits a rich widow who lives in a mansion nicknamed the "Willow House", protected by a loyal body guard named Tamaru, who is gay. The widow praises Aomame for killing the oil businessman and shows her photographs of the injuries he inflicted on his poor wife. This derelict woman is one of six who live in the Willow House. Apparently, the widow contracts Aomame to kill abusive husbands and save their wives. While there, Aomame learns about a famous shootout, another news that she completely missed.

Tengo remembers that his mother cheated on his father when Tengo was just a baby. His memory can go that far back. His father was a fee collector for the national broadcasting corporation. Tengo meets Fuka-Eri and realizes that she is congenitally dyslexic who can neither speak nor write. She admits that the novel was typed, titled and submitted by a friend, an even younger girl, Azami, the daughter of the professor in whose house Fuka-Eri lives. She wants Tengo to meet the professor. She is also somewhat deranged because she hints at mysterious creatures who check what she does and don't want her to write the novel, and Tengo guesses she's referring to the "little people".

Aomame checks the newspapers in the library to find out if the shootout truly occurred. She is familiar with all the news of that time, except the shootout (that made headlines all over Japan, involving terrorists armed to their teeth) and the case of a fee collector who lost his temper and stabbed a college student (this being Tengo's father, the two threads finally meet). She refuses to believe that she missed those news. Her logical conclusion is that, instead, she is now living in a different world, one that shares most events with the old one. She decides to call it 1Q84, where "Q" stands for "question mark". She assumes that it started when she left the taxi. She also realizes now that she could tell the music played in the taxi, Janacek's Sinfonietta, even though she knows nothing of classical music.

Fuka-Eri takes Tengo to meet the professor, a retired anthropologist whose name is Ebisuno. Tengo tells him the truth about the fraud devised by Komatsu, but the professor does not object trusting that Tengo will protect the girl. The old man then tells the story of her father: Fukada was a communist who started a utopian commune in the mountains for organic farming, Sakigake, and a violent splinter faction of that commune, Akebono, caused the famous gun battle with the police (the one that puzzles Aomame in the parallel story, and this is the second point of contact between the two). Hearing about the shootout, Tengo feels that he's about to have one of his seizures and decides to leave (as we know from Aomame's research, the shootout happened at about the same time of his father's incident).

At another singles bar Aomame meets another girl who is looking for casual sex. This other girl, Ayumi, is a cop and likes younger men, whereas Aomame is a criminal and likes middle-aged men. Aomame does not want a permanent boyfriend because it's too much trouble, whereas the cop would like a boyfriend but her work makes it difficult to be in a relationship.

The professor tells Tengo that he has not heard from Eri's parents in seven years. When he tried to reach the compound, he was turned back. The compound is now completely isolated from the rest of the world. The villagers nearby only know that a lot more people live there now and that there is construction all the time. The professor doubts that the revenues from organic farming alone can pay for all of this. The commune, however, has been granted religious status by the government. Eri fled the commune for unknown reasons when she was ten. On the way home Tengo remembers a little girl whose parents belonged to a Christian cult.

Aomame wakes up in her bed, remembering vaguely that she and Ayumi engaged in a sex orgy with two men. It is the first hangover of her life, as she usually doesn't drink hard liquors. Ayumi calls to check on her and tells her that they even did lesbian love. We then learn that Aomame was still a virgin until her mid 20s. When her best friend Tamaki committed suicide, she learned that she had been sadistically abused by her husband. That induced Aomame to learn the technique to murder people without leaving any trace, a technique that she first practiced on Tamaki's husband. After that murder Aomame started craving sex.

Tengo finishes rewriting Eri's story in a record ten days. Kumatsu is very happy with the result but asks Tengo to extend the passage about the two moons. We learn that Tengo has doubts about his biological father. He wonders if his mother's lover could be his real father.

Aomame is reluctant to accept money from the rich widow as rewards for killing men. She already makes enough money teaching martial classes at a gym. Ayumi is rapidly becoming her best friend, the first real friend since Aomame lost Tamaki. Aomame tells Ayumi that she has never had a boyfriend. She is still faithful to a boy she loved when she was ten years old. She is waiting for destiny to bring them together. Aomame notices that something else is wrong with the world: there are two moons in the sky. She wonders if the end of the world is coming and a voice replies "I can hardly wait".

Tengo's rewrite of "Air Chrysalis" wins the literary award. Komatsu now wants to set up a company specifically to exploit the success of Eri's novel. The professor, Ebisuno, who is now a stock broker, has agreed. Only Tengo is reluctant to continue the fraud.

Aomame visits the rich widow and remembers how they became partners in crime: Aomame told her about killing Tamaki's husband, and the widow told Aomame how she destroyed financially her daughter's husband after he caused her to commit suicide just like Tamaki. In both cases the police could not have done much because there was no evidence against the men. There is now a new guest in the safe house for women: a ten-years old, Tsubasa. Her uterus has been destroyed for unknown reasons. The little girl blames "the little people". (The connection with Eri's novel is still vague but one seems to create reality in the other one).

Tengo meets the professor again and he admits that he is using the whole business to find Eri's parents. He thinks that they are kept prisoners by the new rulers of Sakigake. By turning Eri's story into a bestseller, he hopes that the media will do what he and the police could not do: lay siege to the commune and find out what is going on inside. The professor senses that something bad happened when the commune transformed an agricultural entity to a religious entity. Eri can only say that this had to do with the Little People, but refuses to elaborate. Eri seems to like that now she is one with Tengo (they are one person as far as the authorship of the book goes) and asks to sleep at his place.

The rich widow tells Aomame that Tsubasa has been repeatedly brutally raped by the leader of a religious cult to which her parents belong. Even the name corresponds to Tengo's parallel story: Sakigake. It is the cult's ritual that the leader rapes girls before their puberty: he is probably raping little girls all the time. The parents accepted it and the girl had to run away. The man is very powerful and there is no evidence against him that could be used in a court of law. Therefore the rich widow prefers to take care of the matter herself instead of informing the police. The only problem is that the politician never leaves the commune and even his name is unknown. For now she'll adopt the girl. After all, her daughter was pregnant when she committed suicide and that baby would now be of Tsubasa's age. On the way home Aomame is shocked to realize that the story made her crave sex. Meanwhile, little people emerge from Tsubasa's mouth while she is asleep and perform some strange ritual.

Tengo is happy with the older married woman because he wants to avoid the problems that come with dating a young woman who wants to get married; he also likes the fact that his older girlfriend was in control of sex, instead of expecting him to be in control. The effect of Eri on him has been that now he wants to write his own novel. Eri is a mysterious girl also in that she can memorize long passages (for example, of her favorite novel, "The Tale of Heike") even though it sounds like her IQ is very low. She asks him about 1984 but he doesn't have the book. Instead he reads her Chekhov's "Sakhalin Island", a tale in which Chekhov describes people who are disappearing, the Gilyaks, displaced by the Ainu, who, in turn, have been displaced by the Japanese themselves.

At the library Aomame reads again about the gunfight that occurred three years earlier and realizes the connection with Sakigake. Only one of the terrorists escaped. She needs help from someone who can access police records. She tells Ayumi that she suspects the commune of systematic child abuse and rape. Ayumi digs up records about the commune: they have lots of money and are busying land and properties everywhere. We learn that Aomame has an elder brother whom she has never seen after leaving her parents.

While the book becomes a bestseller and Eri becomes a celebrity, Tengo resumes his usual routine: teach math and have wild sex with his older girlfriend. He is disturbed by the fact that he keeps thinking of Eri and somehow he relates her to his mother. That routine is interrupted when Komatsu calls to inform him that Eri has disappeared. Tengo suspects that she has been kidnapped by the Sakigake sect. Eri always claimed that the Little People truly exist: she met them when she failed to take care of the goat and she made an air chrysalis with them, and the book was simply about what happened. If some of this was true, then it would explain that the sect would kidnap her to make sure she doesn't reveal any other secret.

Aomame and Ayumi keep throwing sex orgies with random men met at bars. One time the men even pay them as if they were prostitutes. Aomame tells Ayumi that she was raised in a very religious family, and then the family stopped talking to her when she decided to go away and abandon the cult. Ayumi, instead, was molested by both her brother and her uncle as a child, forced to perform oral sex on them. Then Aomame is called urgently at the Willow House: someone has killed the guard dog in the most horrific way.

Tengo receives a tape from Eri in which she explains that she went into hiding of her own. Komatsu calls, alarmed that the media are beginning to get on the story of her disappearance. Tengo comments that this was precisely the professor's plan from the outset: he hijacked Komatsu's fraud to get the media on the job of digging up her past. Meanwhile, Tengo has started a novel set in Eri's world, a world with two moons.

Tsubasa has run away, perhaps fearing that the killing of the dog was a warning. The rich widow has a plan to kill the Sakigake leader but tells Aomame that she might die and, if she survives, she'll have to undergo cosmetic surgery and completely change life. The rich widow has found out that the first little girl to be raped by the leader was his own daughter when she was ten, and that was about seven years earlier (the same timeframe as Eri's in the parallel story). The rich widow promises Aomame a lot of money, although Aomame does not seem to care: Aomame is as materialistic about sex as she is idealistic about killing bad men at all costs. On the way out Aomame asks Tamaru if he can get her a gun: she plans to kill herself if she is captured by the evil Sakigake people rather than being tortured. We learn that Tamaru was born in Sakhalin Island (the island of Chekhov's book in Tengo's parallel story) of Korean parents working for the Japanese and then abandoned at the end of the war and raised in a Catholic orphanage. He mentions Chechov too: "once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired". And he doesn't seem to be sure that they are in the real world.

It turns out that Tengo's favorite piece of music is Janacek's Sinfonietta, which is the music that fascinates Aomame because she cannot explain how she knows it so well. He listens to it every day. A sinister man, Ushikawa, the director of a literary foundation, visits Tengo offering to pay him a huge sum for a six-month sabbatical to complete his novel. Tengo has only told two people (his publisher and his girlfriend) that he is writing a novel and cannot explain how this stranger knows it. Uncomfortable, Tengo declines the offer. Ushikawa, however, hints that he also knows of his complicity in Eri's fraud, which sounds like a veiled threat.

Aomame is afraid to ask others how many moons they see in the sky. She still sees two but nobody else seems to notice. The rich widow informs her that she has found a way for Aomame to meet the cult's leader (as a masseuse). Tamaru delivers the pistol that she asked for. Aomame has to be ready to strike. Back home Aomame reads in the newspaper that Ayumi has been killed during a sex encounter in a hotel. Aomame feels anger and sadness, but no desire for revenge: she knows that Ayumi always wanted extreme sex, aware of the risks.

Rewriting "Air Chrysalis", somehow brought back the memory of his first love, a girl he met in school when he was ten: Aomame. (For the first time Murakami uses the name explicitly). They didn't exchange a word, they just held hands. And still after so many years he still thinks of her. He remembers masturbating years later. He never forgot and always regretted not talking to her. Eri's novel brought back the pain.

Aomame too is thinking of him (and now Murakami makes her use the name Tengo explicitly - she has never named the love of her life before, just the fact that she fell in love with a ten-year boy and she's loved him ever since).

Tengo receives a letter from Komatsu, which sounds odd since he normally phones. Kyoko's husband calls: he found out about their relationship and tells Tengo that she will never show up again. The sinister Ushikawa calls again trying to convince Tengo to accept the grant, and this time he is more specific about why they want him to accept the grant: because he has helped spread some information that should have been kept secret, and someone wants him to move out of the way. Tengo visits his father at the sanatorium for the first time in two years. His father is becoming senile and speaks in riddles, but Tengo understands that the old man is basically admitting that Tengo is not his biological son and that his mother did not die but simply ran away. Tengo has always hated his father because they were poor and he was taking him on his collection rounds instead of letting him play with the other children; and now Tengo feels released from that hatred: there is no need to hate someone who is not his father. Tengo realizes that all of this is just a conjecture. Eri finally shows up: she knows that something terrible is about to happen because she can hear the Little People and wants to be near Tengo when that happens. The police searched Sakigake and the media are swarming all over the place. Ushikawa approaches him one more time with a final offer, and let Tengo know that they know everything about him ghostwriting Eri's novel. Since they know everything about him, Tengo suspects that they told Kyoko's husband about their relationship, but Ushikawa knows nothing of it. He does know a lot about Tengo's mother and offers to give him the files if Tengo cooperates. Tengo, however, cannot be bribed and tells Ushikawa to go to hell. Back home Tengo opens an envelop that contains a huge sum: payment for his work on Eri's story. He doesn't care about money. He is gripped by a profound existential crisis. He wants to change his life. Eri is still in his apartment and keeps warning about the Little People. When Tengo asks her how much of her novel is real, she asks him to define "real"...

Aomame meets the nameless leader in a hotel room. The leader reveals that very few of his followers have ever seen his face. He is also adamant about having sex with underage girls, but the story is more complicated that simple rape. It turns out that "they" (the Little People?) are using the leader as a sacred object for people to worship. This leader is actually a very sick man who often gets paralyzed. When he is in that state, he has massive erections. Young girls are "sacrificed" to him because people want a heir and they hope that one of the girls will get pregnant. While he is paralyzed with the erection, the prepuberal girls have sex with him. He totally understands that it is unlikely any of them will ever get pragnant, but that's the miracle that his followers are waiting for. There are currently three little girls who take turns at this. This started seven years earlier (when Eri was ten in Tengo's parallel story). The leader lives in extreme pain and is hoping that Aomame can solve the problem. She gets at work on him but she immediately realizes the paradox she's in: the man is in permanent excruciating pain and she is there to kill him and therefore terminate his pain, which doesn't sound like punishment for his horrible treatment of Tsubasa. In fact, eventually he tells her that he knows: he knows that she is a hired assassin, and he wants her to kill him. He mentions in passing that it was his own daughter who brought the Little People to the community and that he became the one who listens to their voices, but it sounds like this all happened regardless and ultimately against his will. Aomame also realizes that Ayumi has been killed by the Little People as warning to her, not to mess with them. The leader tells Aomame that she has become a special being and that the Little People cannot directly destroy her. Now that Aomame is hesitating to kill him the leader has to convince her, and finally he offers her a deal: if she kills him, he will save the life of Tengo. Aomame is shocked: she never told anyone the name of the ten-year old boy she's in love with. The leader tells her that Tengo has become important in the cult's story as well as she is. The connection between them was not accidental. "Chance has nothing to do with it". The leader even calls their age 1Q84, which is the name Aomame coined for the world with two moons but only used in her mind. The leader shows his mind powers by lifting a clock, thus proving that he has the power to save Tengo. He knows things that are impossible to know without reading her mind. He knows that she feels she entered another universe, which she calls 1Q84, he knows that she masturbates thinking of the ten-year old Tengo, and he knows that Tengo wants her too. His job is to listen to the inner voices. The Little People entered 1Q84 through his daughter Eriko (this is the first time we read her real name and have confirmation that Eri is the daughter he's been talking about) and then turned him into their agent who could hear their voices, which also implied raping his own daughter Eriko. She turned against them and against him, thereby reestablishing some kind of balance that, according to the leader, is a fundamental requirement of this universe. Now both Tengo and Aomame are in danger, and it is unlikely that they can both be saved: Tengo teamed up with Eriko to write the best-selling novel and thus became a force opposed to the Little People like a dangerous virus, and Aomame was sent to kill the leader which would deprive the Little People of their agent. If Aomame kills the leader, then the Little People will lose interest in killing Tengo. As long as the leader is alive, Tengo is dangerous and must be eliminated. However, if she kills the leader, the cult will track her down and kill her. She has to decide whether to save herself or to save Tengo. And she decides to save Tengo: she kills the leader.

Tengo was trying not to have sex with Fuka-Eri, but one night he feels paralyzed, has an erection and Eri has sex with him. Even more weird is that she tells him she hasn't started her periods yet: she is 17 but doesn't menstruate. She also tells him that now the Little People are not angry anymore. (From the leader's confession we know that the paralysis and the sex with non-menstruating girls has to do with the Little People's needs to preserve their power). Somehow this experience has a dramatic effect on Tengo: he realizes how lonely and miserable his life is and how desperately he needs to find Aomame. Meanwhile, Komatsu has disappeared.

After reporting back to the rich widow and Tamaru, Aomame goes into hiding. She tells the widow that the leader knew he was being assassinated and that he was happy that way. Tsubasa is still missing. Tamaru tells Aomame about a childhood friend, a savant who was a genius but used his genius only to carve sculptures of rats. Aomame wonders how Eri will feel when she reads that her father has died.

Eri seems to know where Aomame is: she tells Tengo that Aomame is hiding very near. Unfortunately, Eri does not answer any difficult question. Following a cue from Eri, Tengo ransacks his memory until he remembers that the moon was special the day he and Aomame held hands in that classroom. He guesses that the moon can lead him to her. Just then he realizes that there are two moons in the sky. (Is this a consequence of having had sex with Eri?)

Aomame reads "Air Chrysalis" and we finally learn what the book is about. It is basically a retelling of everything that we already learned except that Eri changed the names: there is a religious community, there is a peaceful leader, there is a little girl who gets punished for not taking care of a goat, there are Little People who come out of the dead goat, etc. But then we learn something new: the Little People built an air chrysalis from which a double of the little girl came out. The Little People explain that this is a "dohta" (a soulless double) of a "maza" (the real being). When the dohta wakes up, the Little People will have another passageway to this world, and the signal will be a second moon in the sky. Afraid of the consequences, the little girl decides to run away, leaving the dohta to take her place in the community. The little girl comes to the capital and looks for a friend of her father's, who gladly gives her hospitality. But the second moon has already appeared. In school she meets a boy who becomes her best friend, but the Little People cause him to get sick and be sent to a sanatorium. The Little People are capable of making dohtas from mazas, and for some reason the mazas have to be little girls; but the dohtas are not exact duplicates because they don't have a soul, and, for example, they don't menstruate. The novel ends abruptly as the little girl is building her own air chrysalis to counter the Little People. Aomame realizes that Eri's novel is simply a diary of what happened and Aomame suspects that Eri didn't finish the novel because Eri's air chrysalis is not ready yet and therefore Eri herself doesn't know how the story ends. Aomame realizes that Tsubasa was probably a dohta, which explains why she was incapable of expressing herlsef: not because she was traumatized but because she is not human. Aomame also realizes that the leader had sex not with mazas but with dohtas, so technically he never raped a girl: he was raped by zombie-like creatures. The leader might, after all, have been a victim, not a monster. In any case Aomame is aware that she may be killed any time. The widow has planned for her to change face and identity, but the Little People might get at her sooner.

(Tengo just had sex with a non-menstruating little girl, Eri: is she too a non-human duplicate made in an air chrysalis? the very girl who wrote about it? or is Tengo unknowingly hiding Eri's dohta? This new Eri seems to know things that only the Little People know, like Aomame's whereabouts. Is this part of the plot by the Little People to replace the dead leader and get a new leader?)

Tengo, staring at the two moons from a playground, realizes that the second moon looks exactly like he described it when he rewrote Eri's novel. Eri is not shocked to hear that: she laconically explains that they are one, they wrote that novel together because they were meant to, he is a "receiver" (just like the leader) and she is a "perceiver".

Aomame from her apartment can see the young man staring at the moons in the playground and recognizes him as her long-lost love Tengo. By the time she runs downstairs, Tengo is gone. Aomame dresses like she was dressed five months earlier at the beginning of the story, takes a taxi, tells the driver to drop her off in the middle of the highway and looks for the stairwell where 1Q84 started, but the emergency stairwell does not exist. She realizes that she can never leave 1Q84. She pulls out the gun and shoots herself while drivers stuck in traffic stare powerless.

Tengo travels back to the sanatorium to visit his father one last time because the old man has entered a coma. Tengo talks at lengthy to his father who probably cannot hear him, telling him that he is grateful that his father raised him alone, knowing Tengo wasn't even his biological son. Eri predicted that something would happen during his visit at the sanatorium and sure enough: at one point Tengo sees an air chrysalis materialize in his father's bed, and that air chrysalis is exactly like Tengo described it in the novel. Inside the air chrysalis is the ten-year old Aomame, fast asleep. The air chrysalis disappears but Tengo is now more determined than ever to find Aomame.

Ushikawa, the same sinister man who threatened Tengo, is visited by the Leader's bodyguards who have contracted him to track down Aomame. Ushikawa now plays private investigator: they had originally hired him to do the background check on Aomame. He has already found out about the rich widow and has connected her to the Leader's killing. He asks the bodyguards if they know anything about the killing of Ayumi (Aomame's friend/lover) and about Tengo's married lover but they deny any involvement. Ushikawa is now involved in both stories, Tengo's story and Aomame's story.

(Now the novel enters one of its slowest, most tedious and implausible sections).

Aomame did not actually commit suicide. At the last moment she changed her mind and walked back to the taxi. She has decided to keep waiting for Tengo to resurface. She refuses to go into hiding and undergo cosmetic surgery, as planned by the rich widow, in order to remain near the playground where she spotted Tengo staring at the two moons. There are still two moons in the sky.

Tengo spends a lot of time at the sanatorium, reading books to his father and writing his own book, inspired by Eri's world with two moons. Tengo's devotion to his father moves the nurses, but in reality Tengo is there waiting to see the air chrysalis again with Aomame inside. When he sees Eri, who is still staying at his place, Tengo avoids mentioning that he saw an air chrysalis at the sanatorium. Eri tells him that the only visit has been from a fee collector who seems to know everything about him. Note: his father used to be a fee collector. Other than that, Eri's only company is a crow that comes every day.

Ushikawa investigates the rich widow (we learn that her name is Shizue Ogata). He finds out that she has a son and her daughter died. He suspects she is helping battered wives to avenge her daughter's death. He doesn't know why the rich widow would want the Leader dead, but guesses that Aomame must have worked for the widow and the widow must be hiding Aomame somewhere. (This part required an incredible leap of faith on the part of the reader). Eventually, Ushikawa also finds out that Aomame and Tengo went to the same school when they were ten, and that Aomame fled his parents and their religious cult when she was eleven.

Aomame keeps reading "Air Chrysalis" after the Leader told her that it was written by her Tengo. Desperate that he is not showing up at the playground, she thinks of killing herself again but, again, she can't pull the trigger. A fee collector comes banging on her door but she doesn't answer: he might be a fee collector or an agent of the Leader's sect Sakigake. Informed, the rich widow pays the fee electronically. Nonetheless, the fee collector comes back. Aomame, again, hides inside without making any noise but the fee collector promises to come back. Aomame doubts that he is sent by Sakigake because he is too loud. But something else bothers her: she feels that she is pregnant, even though it is technically impossible. She feels she is giving borth to a "dohta".

Tengo goes out with the nurses and one, Kumi, draws him to her apartment and makes him experiment with marijuana. He dreams of Aomame. Kumi tells him that she is a "dohta" and has seen her "maza" through the air chrysalis. She talks to him about death and resurrection, and he feels that it is about time to leave that town and return to the city, but first he needs to see his father one more time.

Ushikawa visits the school where Tengo and Aomame met as children and develops a theory that they somehow met again as adults and decided to conspite against Sakigake for whatever reason, he by rewriting Eri's best-seller (that reveals the sect's secrets), and she by murdering Eri's father, the very leader of the sect (we learn that his name was Tamotsu Fukada). He also learned that Tengo, besides excelling at math, also played in the school's orchestra: Janacek's Sinfonietta. Since he has no clue of Aomame's whereabouts, Ushikawa decides to follow Tengo.

Aomame takes the pregnancy test and her pregnancy is confirmed: she apparently got pregnant the night she killed the Leader. She is still puzzled about the disappeared stairway but then realizes that, in order to escape from 1Q84, she should have done it in reverse: not descending the stairway again but climbing it from the subway. However, now she wants to find Tengo first. Tamaru investigates and tells her that no fee collector is coming to her apartment: the man who knocks at her door demanding payment is an impostor. Aomame tells Tamaru the she got pregnant without having sex (and Tamaru doesn't seem too shocked).

Tengo leaves his father, still in a coma, after telling him the truth about wanting to see the air chrysalis one more time. Tengo also suspects that the fee collector who has been bothering Eri is his father's soul, now floating freely away from the body, and begs him to stop it. (A fee collector has been bothering both Eri and Aomame). Tengo returns home to find it empty: Eri has disappeared. She left a letter for him at the school where he teaches math: she thinks that they are being watched. Tengo thinks back to the night they had sex. While she's very attractive, he never felt any desire for her after that night. Tengo too wants to find Aomame, and Eri told him that Aomame will find him.

Aomame is now paranoid that the Sakigake sect is trying to steal her baby because of some ominous dreams. She is more obsessed than ever about finding Tengo before they find her. She also feels that in some weird way the baby might be Tengo's baby even if they have not met since they were ten. Tamaru tells her that an ugly man with a huge bald head has been staring at the widow's compound, and Tamaru is sure that this man is trying to find Aomame's hideout.

Ushikawa is a tragic figure: an ugly man, with a huge bald head, whose miserable life has no meaning. Eri somehow felt that he was watching Tengo's apartment. When he saw her leaving the place to go shopping for groceries, Ushikawa immediately recognized her. Ushikawa knows the whole story, and is puzzled why the Sakigake cult felt so threatened by her novel as rewritten by Tengo. We now realize why Eri fled Tengo's apartment: while Ushikawa was taking pictures of her, she turned and stared into his camera, despite the fact that it was impossible to see it. Ushikawa himself felt that she knew he was taking pictures of her. The close encounter via the camera's lens caused him to fall into a brief depression. He even wonders if he may be falling in love with her, a beautiful young girl that is quite a contrast to his desolate lonely life. Later a fee collector came to knock at his door. Ushikawa did not open for fear of being exposed as a private eye spying on someone, and waited in vain to see the fee colletor leave the building: he didn't see anyone looking like a fee collector from the window of his apartment.

Tengo walks to the playground to watch the two moons, followed by Ushikawa. Aomame barely misses Tengo and only sees Ushikawa from her window. If she had seen Tengo, she would have hurried outside to meet him and thus be found by Ushikawa. Because she missed Tengo, she stayed inside and Ushikawa did not find her. Later we read Ushikawa's version of the event, how he followed Tengo, saw him stare at the sky, stared himself and was shocked to find that there are two moons. A coldly rational man used to investigate mysterious facts, Ushikawa realizes that something happened to the world and now has to find out what and why.

Tengo's agent Komatsu resurfaces and tells him that Eri is back at Ebisuno's place. Ebisuno wants to know if Tengo and Eri had sex. Tengo denies having a sexual relationship and does not mention that one incident in which Eri basically raped him. Komatsu tells him that he was kidnapped and kept prisoner for 17 days by mysterious people. The kidnappers were actually the Leader's bodyguards, Buzzcut and Ponytail (he uses the same nicknames that Aomame used). Komatsu was not tortured but was told that the novel contains a secret jealousy guarded by the cult and was ordered to stop printing or publicizing the novel. The bodyguards also revealed that Eri's parents are dead: her mother died of cancer and her father Tamotsu Fukada committed suicide precisely because of something that is contained in the novel that Eri wrote that took away his powers to interact with the divinity. Now Komatsu goes over the mystery with Tengo. They realize that Eri's novel tells the story of the maza leaving the sect but doesn't say what happens to the dohta that is left behind. In fact, now they are no longer sure that Eri is the maza: it is possible that she is the dohta, who escaped, and the maza is the alter-ego left behind. Tengo recalls that Eri does not have periods and cannot get pregnant. Somehow the cult cannot continue to exist, and no new leader can emerge, until the correct combination of maza and dohta has been restore in power.

Aomame noticed Ushikawa at the playground and decided to follow him: the pursued following the pursuer. Ushikawa took her to Tengo's building and she saw Tengo's name on one of the mailboxes. She tried to ring the bell but Tengo was not home. Now she calls Tamaru and tells him that the man spying on her is also living in the same building as her childhood friend Tengo. Now she has to tell Tamaru what she didn't tell him earlier about her connection with Tengo. And she is convinced that her baby is Tengo's baby. (Tamaru, who otherwise seems like a perfectly rational pragmatic person, seems to believe easily in all these incredible stories that Aomame tells him). She begins to suspect that the Sakigake cult is not after her (to avenge her killing of their leader) but after the baby (who might be important for the survival of their religion).

Tengo receives a call in the middle of the night: his father died. Kumi helps him with the formalities of the funeral. His father chose to be cremated wearing his old uniform of fee collector. His father left him an envelope that contains a picture of a couple and their baby: Tengo had never seen a picture of her mother before. He is shocked to realize that his mother looked like his ex-girlfriend Kyoko. Kumi tells Tengo that she was died once in a dream, strangled by a stranger, a dream that feels very real.

Ushikawa knows what Tengo does not know: his mother ran away with the baby, then was found strangled in a hotel room, the murderer was never apprehended, and his father took the baby back home. Tamaru breaks into Ushikawa's apartment, ties up Ushikawa and tortures him until Ushikawa reveals the whole ordeal: how Sakigake hired him to track down Aomame and he chose to wait for her in Tengo's building. Reassured that nobody else has been informed yet of the connection between Aomame and Tengo, Tamaru kills Ushikawa. Tamaru then calls the number of Ushikawa's contact at the sect. The man tells him that the sect has no desire to harm Aomame: they now need something from Aomame and would like to talk to her, something that has to do with the voice that keeps their religion going, a voice that stopped working after Eri published her novel. The sect is also indifferent to the whereabouts of Eri: she has completed her mission for them. So now it appears that Eri was not doing something against the will of the sect but carrying out a mission "for" the sect.

Tamaru tells Aomame that he disposed of Ushikawa. Aomame tells Tamaru that she made a deal with Leader before killing him: she killed him as he desired in return for Tengo's safety. Tamaru suspects that somehow Leader managed to impregnate Aomame with a baby who will become the new person capable of hearing the voice. Tamaru still wants Aomame to move to a safer refuge, but Aomame refuses to do anything until she finds Tengo. Tamaru arranges a meeting between Aomame and Tengo.

Tamaru did call Tengo and told him to get ready to meet Aomame and, in fact, to be ready to never go back to his apartment. Tengo picked up his manuscript and rushed to the appointment. Now they are holding hands again, after twenty years. Aomame tells him that she's pregnant of his child and Tengo understands that Eri was merely a vehicle: Aomame got pregnant the night that Tengo had sex with Eri, or, better, that Eri forced Tengo to have sex with her. Tengo and Aomame stare at the two moons. Aomame has a simple plan for returning to the world with one moon only: climb the stairway up from the subway to the highway. Aomame feels that the Sakigake wants her baby and the only way to save the baby is to return to leave 1Q84 and return to 1984.

Meanwhile the Little People come out of Ushikawa's mouth and start making an air chrysalis...

In the last chapter Aomame and Tengo successfully climb up the stairway, flag down a taxi and reach a hotel (where they finally have sex). There is only one moon in the sky.

Lots of unanswered questions. The cult thinks that Eri completed her mission: was her mission to get Aomame pregnant with Tengo's child? In that case they might not have escaped the cult's plan but fulfilled it. The Leader, after all, told her that there was no escape from 1Q84. What's Ushikawa's air chrysalis for? Ushikawa's dohta? What for? Not to mention the silly idea that now the two lovers (who never met in 20 years) will be left with a baby to raise that comes from another world.

"Shikisai o motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, kare no junrei no toshi/ Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage" (2013)

synopsis forthcoming

Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use