1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I was going to put this up a long time ago, but I did not quite have the time. Nevertheless, I think it’s important to process books in some way so that the knowledge that you have gained while reading them does not leave you in time. 1Q84 was the book I read almost all of last year outside of required readings for classes. A novel of 1157 pages, it was a hefty reading, but I think it helped me process all that I learned while I was in Japan and much that I have learned in the past few years. Haruki Murakami is my favorite author and the longevity of this novel really emphasizes how skilled Haruki Murakami is at creating a whole new, almost tangible world in his novels even with the surrealist elements he is famous for. When I read 1Q84, I felt like I was living my life side by side with the characters. That’s one reason why I loved it, but I also loved how Murakami always includes tidbits of life-long wisdom or philosophy hidden beneath his words and character, but still relatively easy to decipher. It makes his work accessible to always anyone. Anyway, here are some quotes I found memorable while reading 1Q84. I tried to chose the ones that made the most sense out of context so that there would be as little spoilers as possible.

 

‘I know you’ve got something inside you that you need to write about, but you can’t get it to come out. It’s like a frightened little animal hiding way back in a cave – you know it’s there, but there’s no way to catch it until it comes out… just give it time.’ (30)

 

‘Real life is different from math. Things in life don’t necessarily flow over the shortest possible route.’ (58)

 

A certain something, he felt, had managed to work its way in through a tiny opening and was trying to fill a blank space inside him. The void was not one that Fuka-Eri had made, It had always ben there inside Tengo. She had merely managed to shine a special light on it. (60)

 

It was Aomame’s firm belief that the human body was a temple, to be kept as strong and beautiful and clean as possible, whatever one might enshrine there. (168)

 

All I can do is live the life I have. I can’t trade it in for a new one. However strange and misshapen it might be this is it for the gene carrier that is me. (310)

 

I’m not afraid to die… What I’m afraid of is having reality get the better of me, of having reality leave me behind. (443)

 

That was the one thing she was hoping – to be accepted and embraced unconditionally, to be comforted by someone,  if only for a moment. (468)

 

If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation. (536)

‘… there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.’ (583)

 

‘Most people and not looking for provable truths. As you said, truth is often accompanied by intense pain, and almost one one is looking for painful truths. What people need is beautiful, comforting stories that make them feel as if their lives have some meaning. Which is where religion comes from.’ (550)

 

‘…it is just as sinful from the standpoint of nature and of truth to be above oneself as to be below oneself.’ (579)

 

And come to think of it, isn’t this world we live in itself life a gigantic model room? We come in, sit down, have a cup of tea, gaze out the window at the scenery, and when the time comes we way thank you and leave. (622)

 

What kind of world will be there tomorrow? ‘No one knows the answer to that.’ Fuka-Eri said. But the world to which Tengo awoke did not appear especially changed from the world he had seen as he fell asleep the night before. (634)

 

As long as I’m alive, I can think what I want, when I want, any way I want, as much as I want, and nobody can tell me any different. (708)

 

His life seemed to lose its center of gravity – not that he had ever really had one, but up to that point, other people had placed certain demands and expectations upon him, and responding to them had kept him busy. Once those demands and expectations disappeared, however, there was nothing left worth talking about. His life had no purpose. (725)

 

I want to live, she decided. It was a strange feeling. Had she ever experience that felling before in her life? (762)

 

‘But actually time isn’t a straight line. It doesn’t have a shape. In all senses of the term, it doesn’t have any form. But since we can’t picture something without form in our minds, for the sake of convenience we understand it as a straight line.’ (782)

 

Nature abhors a vacuum. (799)

 

‘… people aren’t reborn for their own sakes. They can only do it for someone else.’ (863)

 

‘I think you lost all interest in this world. You were disappointed and discouraged, and lost interest in everything. So you abandoned your physical body. You went to a world apart and you’re living a different kind of life there. In a world that’s inside you.’ (900)

 

Is this what it means to go back to square one? … He had nothing left to lose, other than his life. It was all very clear-cut. In the darkness. a razor-thin smile came to Ushikawa’s lips. (925)

 

‘People need routines. It’s like a theme in music. But it also restricts your thoughts and actions and limits your freedom. It structures your priorities and in some cases distorts your logic.’ (972)

 

The warmth and the pain came as a pair, and unless he accepted the pain, he wouldn’t feel the warmth. It was a kind of trade-off. (1004)

 

It was such a long time, Tengo thought too. At the same time, though, he noticed how the twenty years that had passed now held no substance. It had all passed by in an instant, and took but an instant to be filled in. (1134)

 

Whether this place we’ve arrived in is the world we started out from or a whole new world. What do I have to be afraid of? If there are new trials ahead for us, we just have to overcome them, like we’ve done before. That’s all. But at least we’re no longer alone. (1151)

 

Despite all that happened, I never lost myself … Thank goodness I can be here, as me. Wherever here is. (1152)

 

‘We needed that much time … to understand how lonely we really were.’ (1154)

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L’Étranger

Having just read L’Étranger (the Stranger) by Albert Camus, and “La Cantatrice Chauve” by Ionesco – both which deal with man in the face of the absurd – I mercilessly fall upon the question, how will I face death when it comes upon me? Death is very much an absurd thing. We always unconsciously know it is coming to us, or at least we like to pretend that we know, but we have never experienced it or have any hint to what it might really be. We know what the external signs of death are: no pulse, a cessation in breath, no response, and eventual decomposing of the body, but not really what it means to the person that has died since they can no longer tell us. We know it means a termination of living, all that we know how to do, but other than that, does it really mean anything? In Christian tradition, it means that you start with your “next life”, while in Buddhist tradition it means that you are reincarnated. But for us, the living, that does not really matter to us since there is no way to know what happens after death, nor does it really concern us.

This is the point that Albert Camus makes, Death has absolutely no meaning to us since it is not something we can physically grapple with. It is the undefined endpoint to our lives. What really matters is the time we spend before death, because it is all we really have and all we can be sure to have. Knowing and understanding the absurdity but certainty of death makes us free because it forces us out of the self-constructed vicious cycles we create. Vicious cycles such as what Mr. Meursault calls “the machinery of justice” (108) in L’Étranger or the absurdity of language as demonstrated in “La Cantatrice Chauve”. Life at its most basic, the line between the start point of birth and the endpoint of death, is not a vicious cycle. If we are not obsessed with death and remain true to the reality of the present, then we can be free even moments before our death. The eventual coming of death does not have to steal our freedom.

As I think to my death, I cannot understand it. But what I do understand is that I do not need to understand it. I do not need to waste my time thinking about it, because it will come eventually, it will certainly come. Worrying about it just makes me live like a ‘dead man.’ What I should waste my time on is living my life, whatever that may be, and not wishing it were something else. Because as Mr. Meursault reminds us, “a man who had lived only one day could easily live for a hundred years in prison” (79), that is how rich life is.

Quote

La Haine

‘C’est l’histoire d’un homme qui tombe d’un immeuble de cinquante étages. Le mec, au fur et à mesure de sa chute se répète sans cesse pour se rassurer : “jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien, jusqu’ici tout va bien.” Mais l’important n’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage.’

‘Heard about the guy who fell off a skyscraper? On his way down past each floor, he kept saying to reassure himself: “So far so good… so far so good… so far so good.” How you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land.’

– La Haine (1995)

We just watched this movie in French class today, and I have to say, this quote left me speechless. It reminds me of so much in not just our society today, but also in my daily life.

At first glance, this quote seems empowering; however, it reveals a depressing pattern in our society. We humans have an overwhelming capability for hope, hope that reveals itself in so many positive ways, but hope that can be disastrous. Hope – “so far so good”- can breed ignorance which shields our sight from impending doom and actions to avert the doom. The first example that comes to my mind would be the war on terror. The first response to most with terror is to attack those who attacked them. Although this may seem like a good idea in the farsight since it’s been “so far so good,” in hindsight, attacking those who have attacked them has only led to ever increasing violence which may lead us “landing” in a way that is not preferable.

On the other hand, even more revelatory, is that I have seen this pattern even in my own daily life. Going to school, a lot of us high school students are always telling ourselves to just keep going and pushing on, similar to La Haine’s “so far so good.” What we lose in doing this, though, is having agency over our own daily lives. Weighed down by the enormity of time that school and school work takes up, we feel powerless to carve our own path in life. We feel limited and restrained by the system; however, don’t do anything to get ourselves out of it because up to now, it hasn’t done anything significantly damaging to us. But over time, it does build up, (*trigger warning*) and when it does, some people, even people in my school, have gone so far as suicide because they stuck to the “so far so good,” until their faces were smashed on the pavement. Society is often unable to avert its incoming doom because it refuses to recognize its own cracks.

This is something to keep in mind as we move forward. If something has been working fine until now, it doesn’t mean it’s good. There are always other options, and they should be thoroughly considered.

~hiroshimatoday