Sunday, January 27, 2013

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

He excised any hint of ego, shook off all extraneous embellishments, and sent all transparent signs of imposed logic into the back room. He was a born technician, possessing both the intense concentration of a bird sailing through the air in search of prey and the patience of a donkey hauling water, playing always by the rules of the game.

It was a free calendar from the bank containing the photos of Mount Fuji. He had never climbed Mount Fuji. He had never gone to the top of the Tokyo Tower, either, or to the roof of a skyscraper. He had never been interested in high places. He wondered why not. Maybe it was because he had lived his whole life looking at the ground.

August ended, and September came. As he made his morning coffee, he found himself silently wishing that this peaceful time could go on forever. If he said it out aloud, some keen-eared demon somewhere might overhear him. And so he kept his wish for continued tranquility to himself. But things never go the way you want them to, and this was no exception. The world seemed to have a better sense of how you wanted things not to go.

He looked again at the hollow his father had left in the bed, and he remembered all the pairs of shoes his father had worn out. As his father had pounded the Tokyo pavement collecting fees, he had consigned countless pairs of shoes to oblivion. As a boy, every time he saw these terrible misshapen shoes it pained him. He didn't feel sorry for his father but for the shoes. They reminded him of a pitiful work animal, driven as hard as possible and hovering on the verge of death. But come to think of it, wasn't his father now like a work animal about to die? No different from a worn out pair of leather shoes?

Tengo and Aomame are the main characters in the book. Though Aomame is a bit of an expert, Tengo is a ordinary guy - someone so ordinary, that you would feel like you were walking in his shoes throughout the book. "He had lived his whole life looking at the ground" - seems to speak of a man with no dreams but what better than to have your feet on the ground. To be able to execute a project with patience of a donkey hauling water, to feel the relief of the days go, to struggle to shake off the agonizing memories of a childhood, of trying to understand his father he had been running away from all his life.

You couldn't begin to imagine who I am, where I'm going, or what I'm about to do. All of you are trapped here. You can't go anywhere, forward or back. But I'm not like you. I have work to do. I have a mission to accomplish. And so, with you permission, I shall move ahead.

You are fated to pass through great hardships and trials. Once you have done that, you should be able to see things as they are supposed to be. That is all I can say. No one for certain knows what it means to die until they actually do it.

The book is about trying to find yourself. The best line to describe it is what Tengo's father tells him "If you can't understand it without an explanation, you can't understand it with an explanation."

It is as evil as we are positive ... the more desperately we try to good and wonderful and perfect, the more the Shadow develops a definite will to be black and evil and destructive ... The fact is if one tries beyond one's capacity to be perfect, the Shadow descends to Hell and becomes the devil. For it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself.

Most people are not looking for provable truths. As you said, truth is often accompanied by intense pain, and almost no one is looking for painful truths. What people need is beautiful, comforting stories that make them feel as if their lives have some meaning. Which is where religion comes from.

But this isn't their God. It's my God. This is a God I have found through sacrificing my own life, through my flesh being cut, my skin ripped off, my blood sucked away, my nails torn, all my time and hopes and memories being stolen from me. This is not a God with a form. No white clothes, no long beard. This God has no doctrine, no scripture, no precepts. No reward, no punishment. This God doesn't give, and doesn't take away. There is no heaven up in the sky, no hell down below. When it's hot, and when it's cold, God is simply there.

One of the huge differences between this novel and the others I have read of Murakami so far are the way he deals with God and religion. And more than any other book so far, it has made me think about God and religion. I have always been an atheist. But then, was it God I was rejecting or was it religion? I have to admit though, the thought of God has crossed my mind not once, not twice, but several times. Maybe it is not God that I reject, but the concept of putting God in a fixed role, of interpreting him in a way that seems convenient. Do I need to define God? Then how would my definition be any different from those that exist?

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