in Uncategorized

Literature

Reading 1Q84 took me about 3 months, at my usual easy pace of 10 pages a day. With interruptions: when I traveled to America for 10 days I left it at home, not wanting to schlep such a heavy tome in my bags.  I'm a painfully slow reader, though somehow I seem to plod through thick volumes more readily than thin ones.

Not that length really matters in a novel.  I wonder if writers ever consider how long they intend a book to be before writing: it seems to me that a novel needs to be just as long as it needs to be and not longer.  I can't imagine 1Q84 being written as a shorter novel.

In terms of structure, it's probably the most perfect of all the novels I've read by Murakami.  Sometimes I've felt a little bit lost in his longer ones, even irritated.

Actually I found myself growing a little irritated with him earlier today.  I wasn't sure I trusted him.  I decided to adjourn my judgment till the end of the novel. Perhaps he was planning some bizarre ending that no one would understand?  But I needn't have worried.  A story as bizarre as this does not require a bizarre denouement.  It requires that normalcy will be restored.

Earlier today, though, another thing, perhaps, was bothering me too.  The way that the novelist sets himself up as a God.  Everything is determined by the Master's stroke of the pen.  The rest of us just have to go along with this.  He's the Perceiver, and we are the Receivers - on the unlikely assumption that I understand Murakami's terminology correctly.

There is Sruti and there is Smriti, to use another terminology.  The Sruti is "what has been seen" by the Rishis - the Vedic seers, whereas Smriti, is "what has been remembered".  The latter was recorded by mere men (even if, like the Gita, dictated by Gods).  The novelist in this kind of novel (1Q84), where reality is not subject to ordinary rules, has more the role of the Rishi.  The reader's role is to take the words of the novelist and recreate the story in his imagination.  But this license only extends so far, as does the range of interpretation. "Literature is not a free-for-all," said an English literature professor once, irked by my Buddhist interpretation of Canterbury Tales.

However, I'm beginning to feel constrained by the circle of these novelists' words.  As if I want to break free and write my own book of life. To do so, of course, I would need divine inspiration, and then it won't technically be mine anyway, will it?

Finally, irritated or not, if I'm having these thoughts, it can only be thanks to Murakami.  Thanks to him we know that there is "only ever one reality," though "things may not be as they seem".  They may veil truths that can be revealed only by imagination.