1Q84 Chapter 19-21

Chapters 19-21

Larsson, Rape

  • Well there it is—the Aomame storyline is now going to be about fighting a serial pedophile rapist. Not light stuff at all
  • The only strange thing is that everyone seems to think that the Little People are metaphors for something else, when we’ve seen that the Little People are somehow real, and how, at the end of chapter 19, they start building an air chrysalis.
  • The real question now is what happens at the end of Fuka-Eri’s Air Chrysalis; does she escape? Does she defeat the Little People? Can you escape the Little People?
  • I am suspicious of the Dowager; she claims to have proof that the Leader is systematically raping young girls (Tsubasa) AND that the police wouldn’t pursue the information because it wasn’t solid enough. That seems a little, uh, convenient.
  • For whatever reason I think Larsson is against religion himself, and so having a cult (or a religion in general) be a front for pedophilia would fit his writing too; ditto the Dowager’s thoughts on the Witness Society (243)
  • Tsubasa is “[Aomame] as she might have been” (243). That is a strange philosophical quirk. It is as if Tsubasa only exists to remind Aomame of something (and, in the context of the story being told by the book, that may just be the only reason she exists).

The Little People

  • The Leader has unspecified, mystical powers (. The dowager assumes that they are a sham, but they may have to do with the Little People (244)
  • And of course they are real (on the level of the story, anyway)… they can change sizes at will, are apparently building an air chrysalis, and can make people sleep.
  • The media of 1Q84 reported that Marxist political groups’ support ebbed in the seventies and eighties (269). If the threat of Stalinist communism was a 1984 ish totalitarian system, maybe the threat in a post-communist world is a 1Q84 ish system orchestrated by the Little People. (remember the conversation that Tengo had with the professor about using Fuka-Eri as bait; Tengo was worried about luring out a Tiger, or something else big enough to cause him serious damage—in fact the real threat might be from something Little).


  • This part is a bit repetitive, but I am thinking that it is important for a few reasons
  • Fuka-Eri came to the professor, seven years before the action of the book in 1977, and the professor has not had any communication Fukada in those seven years. By the time of the incident, the community had supposedly become more secretive, and yet a retinue of journalists (and police) visiting and looking for suspicious signs found nothing, even when they were looking hard for a juicy, lurid story. Maybe the professor is lying; why would the press be able to find anything now when they were digging after the bio of a literary prize winner when they hadn’t found anything three years before, when they were trying to save face after a national incident? Maybe the press really is terrible, and this is the professor’s last throw of the dice. Maybe the dowager has some ulterior motive; maybe she’s inventing the story around Tsubasa (who might just be an abused waif) so that Aomame will kill the Leader for her.
  • One of the Akebono radicals escaped the police; could he be the Leader who took over Sakigake? (I feel like I am in a Harry Potter novel)

The Dowager and the Dead Child

  • Aha. The Dowager’s daughter was pregnant when she killed herself; she didn’t want to continue the father’s bloodline, and so killed her baby as well
  • This is reminiscent of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, in which Kumiko aborts her baby, perhaps to discontinue a bloodline that give birth to Noboru Wataya.

Gene theme and Richard Dawkins

  • Murakami is a bit more humble than Dawkins after all; how can genes explain certain facts of human behavior—gay men, religious fanatics who don’t accept life-saving technologies, etc.
  • And yet Aomame feels that there must be some reason she is the way she is—right down to the shape of her fingernails (271). Is this the fallacy that Hume was going after? Is she mistakenly searching for a cause when there may be none?

Fuka-Eri’s Recitation; Tengo’s Reading

  • Her reading from The Tale of Heike is impressive (perhaps because of the translation). I may have to read the whole thing; the idea that Fuka-Eri’s inability to read may be a secret strength is interesting; it rounds out the idea that Tengo’s gentle, attention-fleeing nature may be a strength as well.
  • His reading from Chekhov… it is hard to see how it fits into the text as a whole; I can see why it interested Murakami; it has a certain Zen appeal (facing emptiness, leaving a cosmopolitan world to find meaning in absence, and so on).
  • It is most interesting because of Tengo’s theory: Chekhov felt that Sakhalin was a diseased part of the Russian country, and that the Moscow litearary scene was sick and unhealthy in a different way; Chekhov went to the former to escape the latter, and while he never wrote anything literary about the experience, it became a part of him, as though he had inoculated himself against something. Escape is a motif that flows through a lot of Murakami, and this is no different; the chapter after the little bit from Chekhov is called “No Matter How Far Away I Try To Go.” (271)
  • His reading about the Gilyaks is almost purposefully the opposite of her poetical rendering.
  • I don’t know what to make of the material of the scene; perhaps the Gilyaks’ tendency to put everyone on the same social level is a desirable change from stratified Japan (but then, they treat their woman horribly, so they’re hardly noble savages); if nothing else, maybe they are just an example of a “pre-modern” society of the type that the Dowager and Aomame discussed in an earlier chapter—it’s got good points and bad points, but it isn’t as though it is out and out worse than modern Japan. (214)
  • On the other hand, the scene of her reciting to him and he reading to her is rather tender; her interjections (261) are Dickensian in their innocence and her note the next morning is the most normal communication she’s managed the whole time.
  • The description of the waves on a forlorn shore on 263 is magnificent.
  • Chekhov wrote that a novelist asks questions but doesn’t answer them (perhaps math answers questions).

Tengo’s blameless life

  • On 252-3 the book describes Tengo as someone who flees the spotlight, almost pathologically. It is a good description.
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