Sunday, January 1, 2012

Who the F*** is Narrating This Thing?

(Spoilers for Book 1)

One of my favorite threads of inquiry from our mid-1Q84 support group session was about the narrator. A lot of weird things happen in Book 1: Aomame assassinates a guy with a homemade ice pick, seduces a bald man, and starts up an all-night sex feast ritual with a complete stranger. A 17 year old dyslexic girl recites epic Japanese poetry about Nuns. Tengo puts Fuka-Eri to sleep by reading her Chekhov's passages about the poor Gilyaks. Aomame sees two moons in the sky.

But I think the weirdest passage from Book 1 is when the dowager goes to sleep next to ten-year-old Tsubasa, and the safe house falls quiet:
"Soon [Tsubasa's] mouth began to open wider, and from it emerged, one after another, a small troupe of Little People. Each one carefully scanned the room before emerging. Had the dowager awakened at that point, she might have been able to see them, but she remained fast asleep. She would not be waking anytime soon. The Little People knew this. There were five of them altogether. When they first emerged, they were the size of Tsubasa's little finger, but once they were fully on the outside, they would give themselves a twist, as though unfolding a tool, and stretch themselves to their full one-foot height. (ch. 19)
This passage freaks me out because it's the first time otherworldly phenomena are described firsthand, by someone other than Aomame, Tengo, Professor Ebisuno, or Fuka-Eri. It's the first time our omniscient narrator confirms that the Little People exist outside of Fuka-Eri's imagination. It's the first time shit gets REAL.

And so we wondered: who is narrating 1Q84? The narrative structure is definitely split between Tengo and Aomame, but they are both unreliable third-person narrators, and there's still the question of true authorship -- is Tengo writing the Aomame story? ... Vice versa? Murakami seems to be playing with the idea of authorship and what happens when a story is told, retold, and told over again, creating echoes and ripples co-authored by different voices. So who is this third omniscient voice that confirms the existence of the Little People when everyone else goes to sleep? Is he Murakami? The reader? A metaphorical "Leader" or Little Person? Obvi this question can't and doesn't really need to be answered. But it's uncanny, unsettling, and begs the question: who's telling our stories?

1 comment:

  1. Great questions and yes that first Little People scene was the David Lynch moment for me - that point when the assumed reality of the world just got trampled and your brain reels. Delicious.

    The questions you pose remind me again of the namesake of "1Q84": The protagonist in "1984" spent his time revising past history and the people were so accustomed to forgetting the past and accepting the new reality they even did it during the course of a given speech. But Murakami is weaving something more complex and probing here and obviously having fun mind-f***ing us in the process.