BookTalkII — Part 9 — Shaken and Stirred


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, BookTalkII 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 chapters 4-7 of Book 3 of V for Vendetta and chapters 7-12 of Book 3 of 1Q84 (up to page 911).

“You’re very clever at hiding, like a flounder on the sea floor covered in sand.  Mimicry, they call it.  But in the end you won’t be able to escape.  Someone will come and open this door.  You can count on it.  As a veteran NHK fee collector, I guarantee it.  You can hide as cleverly as you like, but in the final analysis mimicry is deception, pure and simple.  It doesn’t solve a thing.”  (Page 849)

1Q84 definitely mimics 1984, and arguably amplifies it.  Moreover, Haruki Murakami doesn’t really solve a thing.  If George Orwell, in writing 1984, set out to solve the problem of totalitarianism, then he may be credited with some success.  Readers of 1984 are moved to question obedience and the abuse of power.  And surely, if there is a story to spark independence and stand as a defense against unlimited governance, 1984 serves as part of the solution.  So what is 1Q84 trying to accomplish?


Maybe 1Q84 is more of a meditation and exploration of the ideas presented in 1984.  It definitely shows the power of belief.  On the other hand, if we see Ushikawa as the O’Brien of 1Q84, then things start to fall apart towards the end.  In 1984, O’Brien tortures Winston Smith and forces him to see something that is not visible:  Winston must accept that 2+2=5, and he must believe in Big Brother regardless of evidence.  Whereas Ushikawa (albeit indirectly) forces Tengo and Aomame to see 2 moons in the sky and believe in an ominous death threat that conceals the evidence.


1984 promotes hyper-skepticism.  1Q84 suggests moderation.  The power of belief is so overwhelming today that individuals need extraordinary strength to perform a leap of faith.  Regardless of privacy issues, it is easier than ever to create and dwell in a personalized world of one’s choosing — very much the opposite of the world in 1984.  Our freedom and fantastical indulgence, leaves most jaded and isolated.  In order to break the mold today, Haruki Murakami crafts a love story that entices the reader to embrace a sense of vulnerability.  We are all in this together, in fact, there are some that are working actively against us.  Let’s acknowledge our weaknesses and see eye to eye to build a better tomorrow.  Love is the answer.

Of course a love story with no conflict fails to capture the attention of audiences, which is why we need paranoid psychopaths like Ushikawa to keep us on our toes.  Monsters like the NHK fee collector are the manifestation of death and taxes — the only things certain in life, for some.

(The above video has been taken offline temporarily.  A European social video site has a similar version up for viewing in the meantime.)

Ushikawa is the elephant in the room, the massive 800-pound gorilla, the gigantic fish landlocked after a tsunami and hiding in the room next to you or Tengo.  Now, what should we do with the clean-up.  The aftermath of a story, the denouement, that critical period in which the storyteller prepares the audience for the actual end, can make or break a story.  The finest narratives can shatter by the faintest scratch of a poor ending, leaving an overall bad taste reflected back upon the entire narrative experience.  Additionally, the audience perceives the ending as having left the protagonists in a positive or negative state, so for a genuine surprise, a twist ending requires an illusion of shift.  The story endings that linger in the minds of audiences, the ones we continue to share and discuss, contain endings that are intricately questionable.

Conversely, in light of Haruki Murakami’s allusions to Wittgenstein, and to quote Hamlet’s Polonius: brevity is the soul of wit.  The memory holes of 1984 and the way in which a character could be vaporized by Big Brother are as equal as the secret incinerators hidden deep within the religious compounds of 1Q84.  Whether they be documented and forgotten, or purposely deleted and altered, they will be ultimately praised and celebrated as renewing.  The end is relief.

“An official autopsy was conducted, then she was sewn back up, taken to a crematorium, and burned.  The person known as Ayumi Nakano no longer existed in this world.  Her flesh and her blood were lost forever.  She only remained in the realm of documents and memory.”  (page 891)

New Scotland Yard’s chief investigator, Finch flies high enough to achieve an anagnorisis, or that moment of clarity that best serves the plot, expediting a resolution.  He re-enacts the path of a psycho, tracing V’s steps.  Needless to say, V is two steps ahead anyway.  He has already claimed victory.  V is avouched.



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