BookTalkII — Part 7 — A Book Within A Book


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 chapters 11-14 of Book Two of V for Vendetta and chapters 19-24 of Book Two of 1Q84 (up to page 742).

“On the third night, the goat’s mouth opens wide. It has been pushed open from the inside, and out of the mouth comes a number of tiny people, six in all.” (Page 669)

The final chapters of Book 2 of 1Q84 contain a scene in which Aomame reads a book. Held up in a secret apartment, she reads the famous Air Chrysalis, the book that Tengo ghostwrites. The Air Chrysalis story enters into magical realism or pure fantasy, when it begins to reveal the Little People. Considering this book as a fairy tale akin to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it is also sharply contrasted as a non-fictional account of a religious cult’s founding doctrine. Haruki Murakami chooses to pit religion against fantasy. But don’t take it from me, ask him yourself.


Straight from the goat’s mouth and in the Year of the Goat to boot. Haruki Murakami is answering questions from the public for a limited time. You can read all about it in this article by the Japan Times or just visit the website yourself – you can use Google Translate to better decode the Japanese website. So, send him some questions before he returns to exclusion.

Orwell’s 1984 also had a famous book within a book scene at the end of book 2. As a reader or author, when you pass the halfway mark of a novel, you’re already so far invested that a majority just coast into a resolution. This can also afford one the opportunity to let their guard down and reveal some truth. If Orwell is ironic for most of 1984, is he serious in presenting his book within a book?

In 1984 the book within a book was a mock Communist Manifesto of sorts. And whether Orwell’s heart was politically left or right, even though he vocally spoke out against such socialist liberalism as in his work of Animal Farm or in interviews and essays, he surely acknowledges the historical evidence of failed socialism as much as the persistence of economic warfare. Rather, Orwell understood the economics of war. Whether he supported the concept of never-ending war or not, he boldly states that it is needed to produce a reasonable economy.

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While Orwell’s embedded message is seriously sobering, Haruki Murakami puts forth a more artistic and equally fatalistic point. By the end of Chapter 19 of Book 2, Aomame realizes her role as a character within a story – not to mention, the references to Alice in Wonderland are explicit support of 1Q84’s focus on surreal fairy tales. Consequently, should we view 1984’s Big Brother as an authoritarian forcing a narrative upon a character, in the same light as 1Q84? Maybe Winston Smith knows he is just a character and he seeks a freedom as impossible as Aomame’s. Was Winston Smith trying to find freedom, to tell his own story, all along?

The leap in 1Q84 from make believe children’s stories to radical religious sects mirrors a balletic performance. On the other hand, 1984 requires its audience to leap from a dystopian love story to a condemnation of brutality. Still, telling a story is a far cry from boots on the ground; while 1984 reads more and more like history, 1Q84 blatantly titles itself as a fantastic voyage. Oh, and pay no attention to the Esso billboard in the background, it serves no purpose.

Spiking the punch bowl with the usual punk rock grunge, V for Vendetta portrays a prison inmate’s last letter written on sheets of toilet paper. Of high-end Japanese artistry, we go from 1Q84’s post-modern, self-referential book about what it takes to make a book in the 21st century, to toilet paper and the main message of the end of the 20th century: ideals are powerful. Self-righteousness can fuel the terrorist and the dictator as well as the democratic majority and the martyr. V for Vendetta avoids couching its deepest message in a book within a book read by a character in a secret hideout – whether it be government sponsored or monitored or not—and instead the reader pulls a scrap of toilet paper out of a rat hole in the side of a prison cell sunken in some purgatory torture camp. It may be just an inch, yet it is a raw inch. V is overly obvious.



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