Warning: BookTalkII assumes an audience that has already read George Orwell’s 1984, and attempts to compare the classic dystopian nightmare against both the novel 1Q84, written by Haruki Murakami, and V for Vendetta, a graphic novel by Alan Moore. Broken into twelve parts, each part of the BookTalk will focus on a chronologically new section of 1Q84 and V for Vendetta while considering the entire narrative of 1984. See the BookTalkII main page for more details and links to all twelve parts.
Spoiler Alert: This part covers the second 4 chapters of V for Vendetta and the second 8 chapters of 1Q84 (up to page 264) — Chapters 9-16.
Haruki Murakami accomplishes a sophisticated ploy. Most commercial literature uses short, cliffhanger chapters to be convenient for the reader and sinister enough to cause compulsion. As a writer, you want the reader to enjoy bite-sized appetizers of text; and to finish a novel, chapters should be offered like potato chips good enough to force you to not stop at one. Commercial literature can indeed be as unsettling when consumed as that of eating an entire bag of chips. On the other hand, classic literature does not make you sick, rather it satiates while enticing fulfillment.
Instead of plowing through the chapters, 1Q84 uses the intense anticipation and suspense of each chapter break to switch plot-lines. Yes, the alternating stories of Aomame and Tengo continue to weave like a strand of DNA. Just as you get comfortable with one plot the latter intercepts your attention. The speed and rhythm does not cause you to read quicker, and simply consume. No, the balancing act baits you into playing a game. What are the connections between these two separate plot-lines?
Of course, you’re expecting an overlap sooner or later. Great stories usually show multiple perspectives of one event for obvious reasons, as well as the economy of reusing text inter-textually (like a musician releasing a greatest hits album). The narratives are reinforcing each other and repelling, they simply embody the characters. The tension must come to a climatic conclusion like any work of art, say even a symphonic masterpiece.
Now, as you’re savoring both stories, exposition is cleverly concealed. Imagine if Julia had equal share of the narration and point of view in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Consequently, the novel weighs in at twice the average page count, well over a thousand pages. A sixth of the way in and the connection between Aomame and Tengo remains elusive, except for the classical music, namely Leoš Janáček’s Sinfonietta. Refreshingly, the siren song of Fuka-Eri echoes into the foreground with Bach’s BWV 244.
Aomame falls to pieces like a wilting rose. Petal by petal she drops for Tamaki, and then the dowager, and now the policewoman Ayumi.
“Because you are neither an angel nor a god. I am quite aware that your actions have been prompted by your pure feelings, and I understand perfectly well that, for that very reason, you do not wish to receive money for what you have done. But pure, unadulterated feelings are dangerous in their own way. It is no easy feat for a flesh-and-blood human being to go on living with such feelings. That is why it is necessary for you to fasten your feelings to the earth—firmly, like attaching an anchor to a balloon. The money is for that. To prevent you from feeling that you can do anything you want as long as it’s the right thing and your feelings are pure. Do you see now?” (Page 232)
The British love orphan stories, they conjure the spirit of being an exile, a ship out at sea, wandering. Orwell’s Winston Smith was by most accounts fatherless. Japanese culture appears to be more paternalistic, and patriarchal. Leaving Tengo with mother-issues and a deep back story involving his father, the specter of the Takashima Academy looms over Tengo’s mindscape.
V returns the cycle of history. V stands for the Roman numeral five, as in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Did the 16 hard-drives embedded in my mind originally write this meme or are they simply a manifestation of a concept.
“As his doubts increased, Tengo began deliberately to put some distance between himself and the world of mathematics, and instead the forest of story began to exert a stronger pull on his heart. Of course, reading novels was just another form of escape. As soon as he closed their pages he had to come back to the real world. But at some point Tengo noticed that returning to reality from the world of a novel was not as devastating a blow as returning from the world of mathematics. Why should that have been? After much deep thought, he reached a conclusion. No matter how clear the relationships of things might become in the forest of story, there was never a clear-cut solution. That was how it differed from math. The role of a story was, in the broadest terms, to transpose a single problem into another form.” (Page 222)
A Violet Carson is the rose of choice at the end of chapter 8 of V for Vendetta. To stop and smell the roses, one must first find the roses. Underneath the skin of the Stalinist effigy that is 1984, breathes a warning about the loss of autonomy in line with Plato’s Cave Allegory. A Western state, a refined Englishman, could be hollowed out and continue to exist. The veil of socialist democracy could hide a hideous face. Throughout his career, Orwell commented often on the role of education and the rearing of children — once even in the context of the novel Hard Times by Charles Dickens. The value of imagination is weighed against indoctrination. We choose every moment to either grow our own Violet Carsons or have them cast upon us by the executioner.