Haruki Murakami's latest novel "1Q84" grips Japan

Wed Jun 10, 2009 2:10am EDT
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By Yoko Kubota

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami has gripped fans around the world with complex, surrealist tales such as "Kafka on the Shore." Now, his first novel in five years, "1Q84," has Japan enthralled.

From commuters to bloggers, it seems everybody is flipping the pages of the two-volume, 1,055-page hardcover book, Murakami's first novel since 2004's "After Dark."

The book, which dwells on thought control, takes place in Tokyo in the year 1Q84, a title suggestive of George Orwell's "1984" as the Japanese word for 9 is pronounced the same as the English letter Q.

Newspapers, television and websites are full of commentary on the book, released about two weeks ago, and over 1 million copies are expected to be on the shelves by the end of the month, a print run the publishers say is very high for a literary work.

"There are others that sold more. But if a literary work sells 50,000 copies, we call that a bestseller. With 100,000 copies, that's a huge success," said Fumiaki Mori, a spokesman at the novel's publishers Shinchosha Publishing Co Ltd.

"By that standard, reaching this number in about 10 days since going on sale is a very fast pace."

The book alternates chapters between two characters, a female named Aomame and a male named Tengo. It deals with themes such as cults and abuse, loss, as well as sex, love and murder.

The novel has sold out at many shops, and its success is spilling over to sales of music and Orwell's classic.   Continued...

<p>Japanese writer Haruki Murakami attends a ceremony awarding him with a prize at the 24th International book fair in Jerusalem, February 15, 2009. REUTERS/Baz Ratner</p>