Monday, June 18, 2012

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I picked up 1Q84 at the Community Library of the Shenango Valley on a whim.  The reviews looked good and I haven't read much Japanese Literature.  The 900+ page work by Haruki Murakami is a magical realism story, somewhat along the lines of Bulgakov or  Gabriel García Márquez, about two troubled young people who find each other after 20 years and one change of reality.  The book is definitely for adult readers.

1Q84 is takes an interesting look at Japanese culture, religious cults, and how two broken people can make each other whole.  A variety of spiritual themes are also present, all the more interesting because they take place in an Asian culture without the same religious background as America.  Two in particular are worth noting.  

In the alternative reality of 1Q84, two opposing spiritual forces claim to be held in tension.  They are talked about as pre-dating good and evil, but are dangerous and often harmful to human beings.  This understanding is similar to that of many pagan and pre-Christian religions.  The main characters get pulled into the battle to balance the world's spiritual forces.  Part of the wholeness longed for by the protagonists is not only their reuniting, but an escape out of this dangerous world.  For the reader, questions are inevitably raised about whether our reality is like 1Q84, or if we are governed by a different set of spiritual forces.  Whether Murakami has an answer in his own mind or is just raising questions, I don't know.  I know that the answer for Christians is that Jesus' victory over death has put all other spiritual forces under his feet.  We are no longer pawns hanging in the balance, but the creation of an all-loving, all-power God who has saved us and brought us to wholeness, as the main characters here long for.

Another spiritual theme is a prayer that the heroine continually recites in critical moments.  Her parents were part of a cult which required her to recite this prayer out loud multiple times a day, even when it isolated her from her classmates.  While not found in the Book of Common Prayer, the prayer would not be out of place in a Christian liturgy.  Amazingly, even thought she rejects the religion of her parents and often recites the words with no sense of their meaning, the prayer aids her and in some cases even seems to save her.  She locates a significant portion of her identity in these few lines at a time when she is in danger of losing herself.  When everything else around her is crumbling, the true spiritual heritage given to her is an anchor.  The falsehoods and hypocrisies have fallen away and there is no repair to the loveless relationships.  What is real, however, remains.  A good reminder of the power of what we pass on to our little ones and of the blessings and the burdens that result depending on what we are able to give them.

O Lord in Heaven, may Thy name be praised in utmost purity for ever and ever, and may Thy kingdom come to us.  Please forgive our many sins, and bestow Thy blessings upon our humble pathways. Amen. 
-- From 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

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