Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Notes from a frustrated 1Q84 reader (*spoilers*)

Dear Murakami-sensei, 
I sorely miss the enigmatic characters of Dance Dance Dance or The Windup Bird Chronicles. Tengo and Aomame, instead, keep telling their readers about every little thought and feeling,  ad nauseam. I find the stream of consciousness italics annoying and redundant, as I had found them in Kafka on the Beach. Why are you dumbing down your own work? It might have been (almost) tolerable if this was published feuilleton-style, one chapter at a time, and the readers needed to be constantly reminded what happened three pages earlier. 

Maybe it's because of the school retrospectives that come up throughout the novel, but it almost looks like you are writing one of those encyclopedic manga. A good one, nonetheless but still a manga, rather Nobel-prize candidate work. 

The two moons appear in the night sky: things are starting to get interesting, but still in a manga sort of way.

I suspect the translators keep rendering futon (布団) as "sofa" rather than as bedroll, or simply futon (duh!). Very annoying, if nothing else because I suspect they might "adapt" and/or equivocate plenty of other things

The frequent repetitions in the text are puzzling. I keep looking at  them like they were minimalist musings, hoping to spot inconsistencies as I move along, something that might resonate with the unstable reality at the basis of the novel. But I just finds repetitions. 

Tengo instant shrimp recipe: book 2, chapter 7: He put the sliced celery and mushrooms into the frying pan. Turning the gas flame up to high and lightly jogging the pan, he carefully stirred the contents with a bamboo spatula, adding a sprinkle of salt and pepper. When the vegetables were just beginning to cook, he tossed the drained shrimp into the pan. After adding another dose of salt and pepper to the whole thing, he poured in a small glass of sake. Then a dash of soy sauce and finally a scattering of Chinese parsley. Thank you Murakami-sensei!

I'll tell you what: bold characters in narrative should be abolished. If the text itself does not lend emphasis to the story, graphic tricks won't help. And they sure didn’t help here.

I get to the last page, and I wonder: was it worth it? I'm still undecided. There are signs of greatness, but diluted in a bloated, repetitive narrative. Unless the translation was wildly off the mark and missed ambiguities and (self) deception, I found the stream-of-consciousness parts completely useless and redundant, explaining over and over what had no need to be explained. There are great tragic figures, like Ushikawa. I loved the idea, hinted to throughout the novel by the literary coincidences and by Aomame in the finale, that Tengo Kanawa is actually writing the novel in which he is co-protagonist, the very one the readers have in their hands. 

But were three volumes necessary? Do the literary qualities of the end result surpass similar "genre" literature? I would not be so sure about that.

Dear Murakami-sensei: next time send me the manuscript in advance, I'll volunteer delete all the italics and bolds, and we shall pair it down your work to one actually good volume. 

Thank you for listening!

Your faithful reader

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