1Q84: Reflection on a Story about the Search for the Other

 A Book Review by Stephen Foster, Ph.D. Jungian Analyst

1q

Don’t you just hate it when you finish a really good book?  I found myself drawn so deeply in the world of 1Q84, created by Haruki Murakami, that for a short while I was outside of time.  I was so completely immersed in this rich and engrossing novel, that when it was over I was left feeling both elated at having found a book I could be “in” and flattened that it was over. What was wonderful was that it was full of the possibilities for Jungian interpretations; my mind was set spinning.

Let me first admit that I did not actually read the 1160 pages of the book.  Like everyone these days I have so little time to actually read each word on the page.  These days the fantasy of curling up in front of a crackling fire with a good book is sadly just that: a fantasy.  No, I listened to the book in my car, at the gym, and while walking the dog.  For me, this is also a great way to be in the book, and to experience the world of 1Q84.  But—I digress.

In good Jungian fashion, the book starts with the feminine protagonist descending a ladder from the Tokyo freeway down into this new world; the world of 1Q84.  In this world the masculine and feminine characters are searching for each other, and through parallel process, they are unconsciously searching to unite with their own animus or anima; in this book the contrasexual other that holds creative potential.  In trying to find their connection to each other, in this strange new world, they each grapple with their childhood beginnings, their familial norms and their individuation process.

Synchronicities abound, and are so common in 1Q84 that they are taken for granted.  The mysterious and the unusual events that pulled me into this world are not always explained, but one knows exactly what is going on.  Like theater in the round, it is as if the author has somehow incorporated us into the world as a part of the story.  The stories of each character are interwoven, like braided hair.  Yet the novel is simply written.  One gets the impression that there is an unseen hand guiding the actions of the characters in that world of IQ84. For example, the private detective holds the shadow while the couple searches for each other much like anima and animus figures in the unconscious. When we work with the unconscious, these alternative worlds hold powerful symbols and this book is filled with symbolic content that is open for Jungian interpretation.

It seems that Haruki Murakami was drawn to Jung, (he even mentions him in the book) and he was able to work with the tensions of good and evil within the unconscious to conjure up the story of 1Q84.  For me it was the perfect melding of two of my favorite subjects: science fiction and Jung.