Book Review: 1Q84 | An Alternate Universe

May 03, 2014

Today marks the unofficial end of my university life, and basically my life in the education system. I'm rediscovering what it feels like to be able to do whatever I want to do without the constant cloud of guilt that hovers and rains over me for not studying. I can finally bake all the recipes that I've been staving off, and read all the books that I've shelved away. Time to fill the kitchen with the aroma of freshly baked goods, and let the words spill over the pages of my deprived soul.

Gosh, it feels so good to be free. It's easy to lose track of life under all the pressure from studies. It was as if my soul and body had learnt to function separately. My body was merely a vehicle on auto-pilot, going through the repetitive and dreary motions of life and school work; My subconscious had delved into an alternate universe, in search of answers to the unexplainable. I think as far as science goes, the closest we'd ever be to finding an alternate universe is through our minds. And that's why I found the book 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami so fascinating.

Like his other books, there seems to be a revolving theme involving reality, loneliness, and otherworldliness (not to mention, sex). In 1Q84, the characters found themselves in an alternate reality with two moons. I was entirely enthralled by this unique world that he had created and all its bizarre happenings.

To quote Murakami, "Things may look different to you than they did before. I’ve had that experience myself. But don’t let the appearance fool you. There is always only one reality.” 

Based on my interpretation, Murakami seems to be suggesting that our mind, our subconscious, our soul, or whatever name you'd wish to call your inner being - is the only thing that would keep us rooted to reality

So yes, just like how it was during the intense examination period, only my mind can keep me from losing myself in the humdrum of life's repetition. At the end of the day, I'd like to take comfort in the fact that I can reside in my alternate universe (solely created from the corners of my brain) that is filled with all the things I treasure and believe in. Perhaps in this universe, there would be two moons and it'd be perpetual night-time, because for some weird reason everything seems to hold more significance past 1 am in the morning.

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By: PDE

Here are some of my favourite quotes and phrases from the book.

1. If you really want to know what’s happening here and now, you’ve got to use your own eyes and your own judgment. Please remember: things are not what they seem.

3. There’s always only one reality.

4. Reality was utterly coolheaded and utterly lonely.

5. Paucity of expression

6. Seeing what’s under my skirt doesn’t let them really see me as a person

7. The world was a mushy bowl of loose gruel, lacking framework or handholds.

8. It would envelop him like a soundless tsunami

9. You can try to rationalise it all you want, you can invent all kinds of noble-sounding pretexts, but in the end, a scam is a scam.

10. You can have tons of talent, but it won’t necessarily keep you fed. If you have sharp instincts, though, you’ll never go hungry

11. It was the kind of thing that loses the most important nuances when reduced to words.

12. “(I) can’t imagine finding anybody to take your place.”
“You might not find a person that easily, but you could probably find a way without too much trouble,”

13. I almost surely could never find anything to take the place of what we are sharing here and now. You are you and only you. I’m very grateful for that. More grateful than I can say.

14. Visceral preference

15. When you get to be my age, you can stay alive eating very little,” she said. “Of the finest food possible,” she added, half in jest.

16. The human body was a temple, to be kept as strong and beautiful and clean as possible, whatever one might enshrine there.

17. Filthy double entendres

18. Nobody’s easier to fool (...) than the person who is convinced that he is right. 

19. The thing I’m most afraid of is me.

20. “Lunatic’ means to have your sanity temporarily seized by the luna

21. What we call the present is given shape by an accumulation of the past.

22. "Are you afraid to die?"
“Not particularly—living as myself scares me more.”

23. The moon was as taciturn as ever. But it was no longer alone.

24. "This is the kingdom," she thought. "I am ready to die, anytime at all.”

25.  It’s a Barnum and Bailey world,
       Just as phony as it can be,
       But it wouldn’t be make-believe
       If you believed in me

26. I am living in hell from one day to the next. But there is nothing I can do to escape. I don’t know where I would go if I did. I feel utterly powerless, and that feeling is my prison. I entered of my own free will. 

27. Free will may be an illusion. 

28. Once you let yourself grow close to someone, cutting the ties could be painful.

29. How could a whole month have shot by like this even though each day felt horribly long?

30. Once you pass a certain age, life becomes nothing more than a process of continual loss. Things that are important to your life begin to slip out of your grasp, one after another, like a comb losing teeth. And the only things that come to take their place are worthless imitations. Your physical strength, your hopes, your dreams, your ideals, your convictions, all meaning, or, then again, the people you love: one by one, they fade away. Some announce their departure before they leave, while others just disappear all of a sudden without warning one day. And once you lose them you can never get them back. Your search for replacements never goes well. It’s all very painful—as painful as actually being cut with a knife. You will be turning thirty soon, Mr. Kawana, which means that, from now on, you will gradually enter that twilight portion of life—you will be getting older. You are probably beginning to grasp that painful sense that you are losing something, are you not?

31. Where there is light, there must be shadow, and where there is shadow there must be light. There is no shadow without light and no light without shadow. - Karl Jung

32. The only other customers in the room were a young couple, probably students, sitting at the bar, engaged in an intense and intimate conversation, their foreheads practically touching. Seeing them,Tengo felt a profound loneliness, the sort he had not experienced for a very long time. I’m alone in this world, he thought. I have no ties with anyone.

33. But once the ego is born into this world, it has to shoulder morality.

34. Deep down he was convinced that one day it would all too easily fall apart—his busy days as a lawyer, his generous income, his nice house in Chuorinkan, his not-bad-looking wife, his cute daughters, both attending private elementary school, his pedigreed dog. So when his life steadily fell apart bit by bit and he was left all alone, he was actually relieved. Thank God, he thought. Nothing to worry about now. I’m back right where I started. Is this what it means to go back to square one?

35. What's your pleasure?

36. Tolstoy’s famous line, all happiness is alike, but each pain is painful in its own way.”

37. If we die today, we do not have to die tomorrow. 

38. “How far away are we talking about?”
“It’s a distance that can’t be measured.”
“Like the distance that separates one person’s heart from another’s.”

39. I’m a coward when it comes to matters of the heart. That is my fatal flaw.

40. But actually time isn’t a straight line. It doesn’t have a shape. In all senses of the term, it doesn’t have any form. But since we can’t picture something without form in our minds, for the sake of convenience we understand it as a straight line. At this point, humans are the only ones who can make that sort of conceptual substitution.

41. I was confident that I was a special person. But time slowly chips away at life. People don’t just die when their time comes. They gradually die away, from the inside. And finally the day comes when you have to settle accounts. Nobody can escape it. People have to pay the price for what they’ve received. I have only just learned that truth.

42. Certain kinds of knowledge rob people of their sleep. 

43. Not all wounds gush blood. 

44. “That’s what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.

45. We don’t find out what’s waiting for us around the next corner until we turn it.



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