Haruki Murakami is slowly making his way to our shores. The New Yorker has an exclusive excerpt (nine whole pages!) from Murakami's hotly anticipated book, "1Q84," set for release in the U.S. on Oct. 25.
Murakami fans in the U.S. have been waiting for a glimpse of the book since 2008, when it was first released in Japan. The novel caused a stir in the country when it came out in an epic three volumes. In the U.S., it will all be released in a single, 1,000-page novel. According to the Guardian, the title is a play off of George Orwell's "1984," as the Japanese number nine is pronounced like the letter Q.
This excerpt is called "Town of Cats" and follows the tormented relationship between Tengo, one of two protagonists, and his father, who suffers from dementia. It opens with Tengo making his way to see his father by train, and thinking back on their moments together, which Murakami explained to the New Yorker:
Just as the events of the novel are strongly influenced by things that happened before it started, Tengo is strongly influenced by several aspects of his history that happened before he was born. Like DNA, memory is both individual and collective. One of the novel’s themes is the deliberate blurring of the boundary line between the individual and the collective, the conscious and the unconscious.
"Town of Cats" refers to a short story Tengo reads on the train. In the story, a young man on vacation chances upon a town run by cats, which are freakishly larger than your usual cats. Having nothing else to do, he decides to slum around the town for a bit. One particularly surreal scene gets across how this goes:
“Hey, do you smell something human?” one of the cats says. “Now that you mention it, I thought there was a funny smell the past few days,” another chimes in, twitching his nose. “Me, too,” yet another cat says. “That’s weird. There shouldn’t be any humans here,” someone adds. “No, of course not. There’s no way a human could get into this town of cats.” “But that smell is definitely here.”
This isn't the first time Murakami has used cat symbolism. In "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," it's a missing cat that propels the story forward, and in "Kafka on the Shore," the protagonist finds work as a finder of lost cats, who are also able to speak to humans. Miranda July would approve, but the real question is, would Murakami approve of July's talking-cat usage?
Read the full excerpt of "Town of Cats" here, translated from Japanese by Harvard professor Jay Rubin.