Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ichi Kyu Hachi Yon

NF finished this book about a couple of weeks back and overall, it'll be fair to say that he has mixed feelings about it. For a twelve hundred page tome and for being the Murakami opus it's now made out to be, the book has surprisingly little to offer. The fantastic elements are unconvincing and do not add any real charm to the book. No real connections to the Orwellian 1984 either - symbollically, thematically, literarily or otherwise. One wonders why Murakami had to choose that particular year as the setting for this book, except for the multilingual pun that the title bears. Or perhaps Nanga Fakir didn't get the book at all!

However, during the latter half, the great master does oblige. Especially after the introduction of Ushikawa - that unctuous, ugly, unsympathetic yet supremely tragic and even heroic-in-his-own-way character. That is when Murakami veers into the Paul Auster territory - the hardboiled zone in which detectives are too smart for themselves and their endeavours - initially (very fruitfully) directed outwards at their unwitting objects of detection take a more inward turn and unmoor their own masters, as the boundaries between the watcher and the watched become blurred, as days and nights pile on each other, as all meaning is slowly sucked out and the private eye becomes one with the object of detection in an ascetic embrace. Not to say that Murakami is aping Auster here - far from it - in fact he's worked with such themes for a long time now and all these qualities made his older, more compact Sputnik Sweetheart a brilliant, fabulous read.

Do read this mammoth, for Murakami rescues the otherwise clunky parts in the last four hundred or so wonderfully written pages. A good book overall, but we know Murakami is capable of much, much greater feats.

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