So going through these chapters I get the feeling that all the pieces are falling into place. It seems that the cult may be looking for someone to replace the Leader with Tengo; maybe they’ll try to set him up with Fuka-Eri to get another Pair of Perceiver/Receivers.1 They might even be looking to set Aomame in the organization.2
This sort of Endgame seems to be new in Murakami; not to say that he didn’t tie things together well enough in his other works, just that he did so very quickly. Here things are still winding down, settling in after the one tumultuous moment in which Aomame killed the Leader and Tengo had sex with Fuka-Eri. There’s a very pleasing symmetry to it, and I wonder how it will carry to the end. I can pretty easily picture Aomame choosing to let Tengo go in order to keep Ushikawa off her trail and to keep him safe, perhaps as the price she pays for getting to see him again and for having his baby.3 In any case I don’t foresee her and Tengo being able to get together.
Oddly, all the lines are falling around Ushikawa: he is the only one of the three who knows that the circle is getting tighter; Fuka-Eri has had an effect on him, much as the Leader had an effect on Aomame (770); the NHK collector comes to him as he came to Aomame, like a guilty conscience attacking them for living secret existences.4 We’ll see what he does with his chance to reform himself.5 In the previous Ushikawa chapter it said that he was well able to live in a place without a subject-object differentiation, and I think that the maza–dohta ambiguity bit may be connected as well..
Slips of Pacing and Marcel Proust
One of the pleasant tricks Murakami has up is sleeve is to set each character’s story chronologically, but to set those stories a bit out of order in the actual book—so Tengo goes to the slide again and we wonder why Aomame didn’t make contact. Then we learn in an Aomame chapter that she was inside on the phone with Tamaru6 when Tengo stood on the slide for the second time, and that she had dodged Ushikawa in doing so.7
It sets up the possibility that Ushikawa will have the last chapter. Imagine it: the Tengo and Aomame chapters get to a point where they meet and then Ushikawa shows up with a strange expression on his face. We read Ushikawa’s chapter (which would have happened before that final confrontation) and he has some strange, neutral, possibly life changing experience… and then we’ll never get to read what the end would be, as in Inception.8 9
There is a weird little moment in her chapter when she sees Ushikawa leaving the playground (though she doesn’t know who it is). The book reads “At this point, a number of ‘if’s came to mind. If Tamaru had hung up a little earlier, if Aomame hadn’t made cocoa while mulling over things…” (780). Whose mind did these “if”s come to? The reader’s, obviously, but why should Murakami come out and and out and say it directly like that? I suppose I should look to find the answer myself, but I am not particularly keen on the possibility.
More Possibly Post-Modern Shenanigans
There’s another bit of Murakami making his characters into readers as Komatsu and Tengo talk about Sakigake and the connection to Air Chrysalis. Like us, they wonder if Fuka-Eri is a maza or a dohta, they notice that the two roles are similar to mother and daughter, they wonder if Fuka-Eri is at the center of it all, and so on.
We did get some more answers about Sakigake; they want to halt publication of Air Chrysalis, though whether or not that will help them is unclear; it seems like the kind of move a company might make after its visionary founder left.
1This is supported by the fact Professor Ebisuno’s question as to whether Tengo had had a sexual relationship with Fuka-Eri; he’s trying to figure out Sakigake’s plan as well, and may have had an idea what Fuka-Eri was up to in staying at Tengo’s house.
2Just what the cult wants is still a matter of conjecture. It would seem that they want to pursue Aomame for vengeance, and that they’re meant as an example of a group that became foolishly dependant on a connection that would be severed when their Leader died. And yet Buzzcut tells Komatsu that the Leader “put an end to his existence naturally” (794). Which would mean that they wouldn’t necessarily blame Aomame—so why are they looking for her? It could be that they just want her to answer questions, or they might want her alive; she would be a person of incredible significance to their cult, especially if they believe that she became pregnant at the moment that the Leader died.
3In any case I don’t foresee her and Tengo being able to get together. Two people don’t amount to a hill of beans in the crazy world of 1Q84.
4The idea seems to be that you can’t put off paying your debts forever; something will always some to collect. The question for Murakami isn’t for whom the bell is tolling, but just who or what is causing it to toll; after his moment looking at Fuka-Eri’s face, I’ve got the sense that he has heard the bell.
5There’s plenty more on Ushikawa being Ushikawa simply because he looks the way he does,e.g. the fact that he became a shady lawyer because no one would have hired him to be an honest one; society makes us into the image it wants of us (765).
6Called it! Boo yah!
7And Ushikawa is described as child-like. Hmmm.
8In a moment’s distraction I looked up how many pages I have remaining and saw that the last chapter mentions Aomame. Looks like this theory is toast.
9I’ve got the feeling that all these slippages in time are meant as a sort of attempt to get an effect similar to the one Proust gets in In Search of Lost Time: he’s trying to get time to waver in front of the reader (775). If nothing else there’s the wry little joke that one has to be a captive in order to read Proust. I wonder if the madeleines that Tamaru send to Aomame will indeed have a “positive effect on time” (779).