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As the story opens, Tengo confronts a unique situation of his own. He is an aspiring novelist and his editor asks him to rewrite a manuscript called “Air Chrysalis” that was submitted to a prestigious amateur fiction contest by a dyslexic 17-year-old girl named Fuka-Eri. Tengo’s editor thinks that with some polishing “Air Chrysalis” could win the prize and he cajoles Tengo into doctoring the manuscript. 

Tengo hesitates because he doesn’t want to perpetrate a fraud, but he can’t resist the strangely powerful story about a religious cult and a tribe of spirits called the “Little People” who emerge from the mouth of a dead goat in a world where two moons hang in the sky – just like Aomame’s 1Q84.

Murakami likes to blur the boundaries of reality, and in this sense “1Q84” is his most intricate work. The novel alternates between Tengo’s and Aomame’s stories and as the plot progresses, events draw the two of them together. Yet throughout the novel the line between 1984 and 1Q84, and between Aomame’s story and the fictionalized story of Air Chrysalis remains ambiguous, making it unclear whether it’s even possible for the two characters to meet.

In “1Q84” Murakami makes several direct statements about the nature and methods of fiction, which begin to explain why he chooses to layer worlds on top of each other (and also add to the sense that “1Q84” is intended as the definitive work of the author’s career).

Before Aomame carries out the central killing of the book, she acquires a gun (for self-protection, not to commit the murder; her M.O. is more original than a bullet to the head). As she picks up the gun, Aomame thinks of Chekhov’s edict that a gun that appears in a story must be fired. However, the man selling her the weapon tells her not to feel beholden to old rules: “Chekhov was a great writer but not all novels have to follow his rules. Not all guns in stories have to be fired.”

In “1Q84,” a lot of guns go unfired which might frustrate some readers. The novel is full of suggestions that flare but don’t burn and characters, like Tengo’s older paramour, who disappear as if vanishing from a dream. Murakami seems to be saying that because life isn’t orderly and knowable, novels shouldn’t be, either.

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