Posts Tagged ‘Russell Hoban’

Haruki Murakami “1Q84”

December 18, 2012

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1Q84 is by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami who also wrote Norwegian Wood and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – both of which are profound and interesting and unusual.  But 1Q84 just feels disappointing – flatly written and with far too many characters.  To steal Luke Kennard’s comment: “when Murakami’s characters aren’t being themselves, they have a habit of  sounding like Dan Brown extras.”  ( http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/books/1q84-a-brilliant-and-infuriating-narrative )  I have unfairly quoted the sole negative remark in a long review: Kennard actually loves the book, and his review makes me sound dyspeptic.  So it goes.

I wondered whether the style was a function of the translation, and did some online searching.  It turns out that the two volumes were translated by different people (one for volumes 1 and 2, the other for volume 3), but that they had been fairly stringently regulated to ensure a parity of style. Furthermore, there are hints that the whole thing was produced with massive time constraints – rushing for a publication deadline.  Perhaps this is why they do indeed feel very similar (but not identical) and I still wonder whether the editorial interventions somehow strait-jacketed the translators, and planed their style down to a kind of blankness.

The plot involves an alternative reality into which the characters slip when they get involved with a secretive religious organisation that abuses young girls.  The suggestion develops that the religious organisation has a genuine link with some kind of ‘other’ power – maybe from a spirit world, maybe aliens.  At the point I reached it wasn’t clear which.  There’s a love story in there, too, and some murders, and some steamy sex scenes.  Some parts of it make me think of ‘Dragon Tattoo’ sequence – the casual sex and violence; the self-justified stance; the obscured misogyny of its pseudo-eroticism.  It’s about 1200 pages long, and I got through something over 900 of them – so I gave the book a fair run for its money, I think.  (I’m giving up on it because it has failed to make me care two hoots about the worlds, the aliens, or the characters.  And it’s making me feel even more depressed than usual.)

Didn’t expect to get quite so irate when I started out to write this.  Maybe I am turning into a curmudgeon.  I shall go away and read Robert Coover instead – or maybe Russell Hoban, who is balm for the soul.
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a frog this time

November 16, 2010

from Russell Hoban The Mouse and His Child (1967 ), p.35

‘What do you see?’ said Ralphie.
‘A journey,’ said the Frog, having noted the bag carried by the mouse and his child, ‘a long journey.’
‘You’re wrong there,’ said Ralphie. ‘It’s a short one.’
‘One never knows about journeys,’ said Frog. ‘It may seem long.’


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