11-13-2011, 08:02 PM   #10

 

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: May 2006
: 远海
: 581  [ ]

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CHAPTER 9

Aomame

NEW SCENERY, NEW RULES


Aomame went to the ward library closest to home. At the reference desk, she requested the compact edition of the newspaper for the three-month period from September to November, 1981. The clerk pointed out that they had such editions for four newspapersthe Asahi, the Yomiuri, the Mainichi, and the Nikkeiand asked which she preferred. The bespectacled middle-aged woman seemed less a regular librarian than a housewife doing part-time work. She was not especially fat, but her wrists were puffy, almost ham-like.
Aomame said she didnt care which newspaper they gave her to read: they were all pretty much the same.
That may be true, but I really need you to decide which you would like, the woman said in a flat voice meant to repel any further argument. Aomame had no intention of arguing, so she chose the Mainichi, for no special reason. Sitting in a cubicle, she opened her notebook and, ballpoint pen in hand, started scanning one article after another.
No especially major events had occurred in the early autumn of 1981. Charles and Diana had married that July, and the aftereffects were still in evidencereports on where they went, what they did, what she wore, what her accessories were like. Aomame of course knew about the wedding, but she had no particular interest in it, and she could not figure out why people were so deeply concerned about the fate of an English prince and princess. Charles looked less like a prince than a high school physics teacher with stomach trouble.
In Poland, Lech Walesas Solidarity movement was deepening its confrontation with the government, and the Soviet government was expressing its concern. More directly, the Soviets were threatening to send in tanks, just as they had prior to the 1968 Prague Spring, if the Polish government failed to bring things under control. Aomame generally remembered these events as well. She knew that the Soviet government eventually gave up any thought of interfering in the situation, so there was no need for her to read these articles closely. One thing did catch her attention, though. When President Reagan issued a declaration meant to discourage the Soviets from intervening in Polish internal affairs, he was quoted as saying, We hope that the tense situation in Poland will not interfere with joint U.S.-Soviet plans to construct a moon base. Construct a moon base? She had never heard of such a plan. Come to think of it, though, there had been some mention of that on the TV news the other daythat night when she had sex with the balding, middle-aged man from Kansai in the Akasaka hotel.
On September 20, the worlds largest kite-flying competition took place in Jakarta, with more than ten thousand participants. Aomame was unfamiliar with that particular bit of news, but there was nothing strange about it. Who would remember news about a giant kite-flying competition held in Jakarta three years ago?
On October 6, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by radical Islamic terrorists. Aomame recalled the event with renewed pity for Sadat. She had always been fond of Sadats bald head, and she felt only revulsion for any kind of religious fundamentalists. The very thought of such peoples intolerant worldview, their inflated sense of their own superiority, and their callous imposition of their own beliefs on others was enough to fill her with rage. Her anger was almost uncontrollable. But this had nothing to do with the problem she was now confronting. She took several deep breaths to calm her nerves, and then she turned the page.
On October 12, in a residential section of the Itabashi Ward of Tokyo, an NHK subscription fee collector (aged fifty-six) became involved in a shouting match with a college student who refused to pay. Pulling out the butcher knife he always carried in his briefcase, he stabbed the student in the abdomen, wounding him seriously. The police rushed to the scene and arrested him on the spot. The collector was standing there in a daze with the bloody knife in his hand. He offered no resistance. According to one of his fellow collectors, the man had been a full-time staff member for six years and was an extremely serious worker with an outstanding record.
Aomame had no recollection of such an event. She always took the Yomiuri newspaper and read it from cover to cover, paying close attention to the human interest storiesespecially those involving crimes (which comprised fully half the human interest stories in the evening edition). There was almost no way she could have failed to read an article as long as this one. Of course, something could have come up that caused her to miss it, but this was very unlikelyunlikely, but not unthinkable.
She knit her brow and mulled over the possibility that she could have missed such a report. Then she recorded the date in her notebook, with a summary of the event.
The collectors name was Shinnosuke Akutagawa. Impressive. Sounded like the literary giant Ryunosuke Akutagawa. There was no photograph of the collector, only of the man he stabbed, Akira Tagawa, age twenty-one. Tagawa was a third-year student in the undergraduate law program of Nihon University and a second-rank practitioner of Japanese swordsmanship. Had he been holding a bamboo practice sword at the time, the collector would not have been able to stab him so easily, but ordinary people do not hold bamboo swords in hand when they talk to NHK fee collectors. Of course, ordinary NHK fee collectors dont walk around with butcher knives in their briefcases, either. Aomame followed the next several days worth of reports on the case but found nothing to indicate that the student had died. He had probably survived.
On October 16 there had been a major accident at a coal mine in Yubari, Hokkaido. A fire broke out at the extraction point one thousand meters underground, and more than fifty miners suffocated. The fire spread upward toward the surface, and another ten men died. To prevent the fire from spreading further, the company pumped the mine full of water without first ascertaining the whereabouts of the remaining miners. The final death toll rose to ninety-three. This was a heartrending event. Coal was a dirty energy source, and its extraction was dangerous work. Mining companies were slow to invest in safety equipment, and working conditions were terrible. Accidents were common and miners lungs were destroyed, but there were many people and businesses that required coal because it was cheap. Aomame had a clear memory of this accident.
The aftermath of the Yubari coal mine accident was still being reported in the paper when Aomame found the event that she was looking for. It had occurred on October 19, 1981. Not until Tamaru told her about it several hours earlier was Aomame aware that such an incident had ever happened. This was simply unimaginable. The headline appeared on the front page of the morning edition in large type:

YAMANASHI GUNFIGHT WITH RADICALS: 3 OFFICERS DIE

A large photo accompanied the article, an aerial shot of the location where the battle had occurred near Lake Motosu, in the hills of Yamanashi Prefecture. There was also a simple map of the site, which was in the mountains away from the developed area of lakeside vacation homes. There were three portrait photos of the dead officers from the Yamanashi Prefectural Police. A Self-Defense Force special paratroop unit dispatched by helicopter. Camouflage fatigues, sniper rifles with scopes, short-barreled automatics.
Aomame scowled hugely. In order to express her feelings properly, she stretched every muscle in her face as far as it would go. Thanks to the partitions on either side of her, no one else sitting at the library tables was able to witness her startling transformation. She then took a deep breath, sucking in all the surrounding air that she possibly could, and letting every bit of it out, like a whale rising to the surface to exchange all the air in its giant lungs. The sound startled the high school student studying at the table behind her, his back to hers, and he spun around to look at her. But he said nothing. He was just frightened.
After distorting her face for a while, Aomame made an effort to relax each of her facial muscles until she had resumed a normal expression. For a long time after that, she tapped at her front teeth with the top end of her ballpoint pen and tried to organize her thoughts. There ought to be a reason. There has to be a reason. How could I have overlooked such a major event, one that shook the whole of Japan?
And this incident is not the only one. I didnt know anything about the NHK fee collectors stabbing of the college student. Its absolutely mystifying. I couldnt possibly have missed one major thing after another. Im too observant, too meticulous for that. I know when somethings off by a millimeter. And I know my memory is strong. This is why, in sending a number of men to the other side, Ive never made a single mistake. This is why Ive been able to survive. I read the newspaper carefully every day, and when I say read the newspaper carefully, that means never missing anything that is in any way significant.
The newspaper continued for days to devote major space to the Lake Motosu Incident. The Self-Defense Force and the Yamanashi Prefectural Police chased down ten escaped radicals, staging a large-scale manhunt in the surrounding hills, killing three of them, severely wounding two, and arresting four (one of whom turned out to be a woman). The last person remained unaccounted for. The paper was filled with reports on the incident, completely obliterating any follow-up reports on the NHK fee collector who stabbed the college student in Itabashi Ward.
Though no one at NHK ever said so, of course, the broadcasters must have been extremely relieved. For if something like the Lake Motosu Incident had not occurred, the media would almost certainly have been screaming about the NHK collections system or raising doubts about the very nature of NHKs quasi-governmental status. At the beginning of that year, information on the ruling Liberal Democratic Partys objections to an NHK special on the Lockheed scandal was leaked, exposing how the NHK had, in response, changed some of the content. After these revelations, much of the nation wasquite reasonablybeginning to doubt the autonomy of NHK programming and to question its political fairness. This in turn gave added impetus to a campaign against paying NHK subscription fees.
Aside from the Lake Motosu Incident and the incident involving the NHK fee collector, Aomame clearly remembered the other events and incidents and accidents that had occurred at the time, and she clearly remembered having read all the newspaper reports about them. Only in those two cases did her powers of recall seem to fail her. Why should that be? Why should there be absolutely nothing left in her memory from those two events alone? Even supposing this is all due to some malfunction in my brain, could I possibly have erased those two matters so cleanly, leaving everything else intact?
Aomame closed her eyes and pressed her fingertips against her templeshard. Maybe such a thing is, in fact, possible. Maybe my brain is giving rise to some kind of function that is trying to remake reality, that singles out certain news stories and throws a black cloth over them to keep me from seeing or remembering themthe police departments switch to new guns and uniforms, the construction of a joint U.S.-Soviet moon base, an NHK fee collectors stabbing of a college student, a fierce gun battle at Lake Motosu between a radical group and a special detachment of the Self-Defense Force.
But what do any of these things have in common?
Nothing at all, as far as I can see.
Aomame continued tapping on her teeth with the top end of her ballpoint pen as her mind spun furiously.
She kept this up for a long time until finally, the thought struck her: Maybe I can look at it this waythe problem is not with me but with the world around me. Its not that my consciousness or mind has given rise to some abnormality, but rather that some kind of incomprehensible power has caused the world around me to change.
The more she thought about it, the more natural her second hypothesis began to feel to her because, no matter how much she searched for it, she could not find in herself a gap or distortion in her mind.
And so she carried this hypothesis forward:
Its not me but the world thats deranged.
Yes, that settles it.
At some point in time, the world I knew either vanished or withdrew, and another world came to take its place. Like the switching of a track. In other words, my mind, here and now, belongs to the world that was, but the world itself has already changed into something else. So far, the actual changes carried out in that process are limited in number. Most of the new world has been retained from the world I knew, which is why the changes have presented (virtually) no impediments to my daily lifeso far. But the changes that have already taken place will almost certainly create other, greater, differences around me as time goes by. Those differences will expand little by little and will, in some cases, destroy the logicality of the actions I take. They could well cause me to commit errors that arefor meliterally fatal.
Parallel worlds.
Aomame scowled as if she had bitten into something horribly sour, though the scowl was not as extreme as the earlier one. She started tapping her ballpoint pen against her teeth again, and released a deep groan. The high school student behind her heard it rattle in her throat, but this time pretended not to hear.
This is starting to sound like science fiction.
Am I just making up a self-serving hypothesis as a form of self-defense? Maybe its just that Ive gone crazy. I see my own mind as perfectly normal, as free of distortion. But dont all mental patients insist that they are perfectly fine and its the world around them that is crazy? Arent I just proposing the wild hypothesis of parallel worlds as a way to justify my own madness?
This calls for the detached opinion of a third party.
But going to a psychiatrist for analysis is out of the question. The situation is far too complicated for that, and theres too much that I cant talk about. Take my recent work, for example, which, without a doubt, is against the law. I mean, Ive been secretly killing men with a homemade ice pick. I couldnt possibly tell a doctor about that, even if the men themselves have been utterly despicable, twisted individuals.
Even supposing I could successfully conceal my illegal activities, the legal parts of the life Ive led since birth could hardly be called normal, either. My life is like a trunk stuffed with dirty laundry. It contains more than enough material to drive any one human being to mental aberrationmaybe two or three peoples worth. My sex life alone would do. Its nothing I could talk about to anyone.
No, I cant go to a doctor. I have to solve this on my own.
Let me pursue this hypothesis a little further if I can.
If something like this has actually happenedif, that is, this world Im standing in now has in fact taken the place of the old onethen when, where, and how did the switching of the tracks occur, in the most concrete sense?
Aomame made another concentrated effort to work her way back through her memory.
She had first become aware of the changes in the world a few days earlier, when she took care of the oil field development specialist in a hotel room in Shibuya. She had left her taxi on the elevated Metropolitan Expressway No. 3, climbed down an emergency escape stairway to Route 246, changed her stockings, and headed for Sangenjaya Station on the Tokyu Line. On the way to the station, she passed a young policeman and noticed for the first time that something about his appearance was different. Thats when it all started. Which means the world switched tracks just before that. The policeman I saw near home that morning was wearing the same old uniform and carrying an old-fashioned revolver.
Aomame recalled the odd sensation she had felt when she heard the opening of Janáčeks Sinfonietta in the taxi caught in traffic. She had experienced it as a kind of physical wrenching, as if the components of her body were being wrung out like a rag. Then the driver told me about the Metropolitan Expressways emergency stairway. I took off my high heels and climbed down. The entire time I climbed down that precarious stairway in my stocking feet with the wind tearing at me, the opening fanfare of Janáčeks Sinfonietta echoed on and off in my ears. That may have been when it started, she thought.
There had been something strange about that taxi driver, too. Aomame still remembered his parting words. She reproduced them as precisely as she could in her mind:
After you do something like that, the everyday look of things might seem to change a little. Things may look different to you than they did before. But dont let appearances fool you. Theres always only one reality.
At the time, Aomame had found this odd, but she had had no idea what he was trying to tell her, so she hadnt given it much thought. She had been in too much of a hurry to puzzle over riddles. Thinking back on it now, though, his remarks had come out of nowhere, and they were truly strange. They could be taken as cautionary advice or an evocative message. What was he trying to convey to me?
And then there was the Janáček music.
How was I able to tell instantly that it was Janáčeks Sinfonietta? And how did I know it was composed in 1926? Janáčeks Sinfonietta is not such popular music that anyone can recognize it on hearing the first few bars. Nor have I ever been such a passionate fan of classical music. I cant tell Haydn from Beethoven. Yet the moment it came flowing through the car radio, I knew what it was. Why was that, and why should it have given me such an intensely physicaland intensely personaljolt?
Yes, that jolt was utterly personal. It felt as if something had awakened a memory that had been asleep inside me for years. Something seemed to grab my shoulder and shake me. Which means I might have had a deep connection with that music at some point in my life. The music started playing, threw an automatic switch to on, and perhaps some kind of memory came fully awake. Janáčeks Sinfonietta.
But though she tried to probe her memory, Aomame could come up with nothing else. She looked around, stared at her palms, inspected the shape of her fingernails, and grabbed her breasts through her shirt to check the shape. No change. Same size and shape. Im still the same me. The world is still the same world. But something has started to change. She could feel it. It was like looking for differences between two identical pictures. Two pictures hang on the wall side by side. They look exactly alike, even with careful comparison. But when you examine the tiniest details, minuscule differences become apparent.
Aomame switched mental gears, turned the page of the compact-edition newspaper, and started taking detailed notes on the gun battle at Lake Motosu. There was speculation that the five Chinese-made Kalashnikov AK-47s had been smuggled in through the Korean Peninsula. They were most likely used military surplus in fairly good condition and came with lots of ammunition. The Japan Seas coast was a long one. Bringing in weapons and ammunition under cover of night and using a spy ship disguised as a fishing vessel was not that difficult. That was how drugs and weapons were brought into Japan in exchange for massive quantities of Japanese yen.
The Yamanashi Prefectural Police had been unaware that the radicals were so heavily armed. They obtained a search warrant on the (purely pro-forma) charge of inflicting bodily injury, and were carrying only their usual weapons when they piled into two patrol cars and a minibus and headed for the farm. This was the headquarters of a group that called itself Akebono, or First Light. On the face of it, the group members were simply operating an organic farm. They refused to allow the police to search their property. A confrontation ensued, and at some point it turned into a gun battle.
The Akebono group owned high-powered Chinese-made hand grenades, which fortunately they did not use, purely because they had obtained the grenades so recently that they had not had time to learn how to operate them. If the radicals had used hand grenades, casualties among the police and the Self-Defense Force would almost certainly have been much greater. Initially, the police did not even bring bulletproof vests with them. Critics singled out the police authorities poor intelligence analysis and the departments aging weaponry. What most shocked people, however, was the very fact that there still survived in Japan such an armed radical group operating so actively beneath the surface. The late sixties bombastic calls for revolution were already a thing of the past, and everyone assumed that the remnants of the radicals had been wiped out in the police siege of the Asama Mountain Lodge in 1972.
When she had finished taking all her notes, Aomame returned the compact newspaper to the reference counter. Choosing a thick book called Composers of the World from the music section, she returned to her table and opened the book to Janáček.
. . .

Leoš Janáček was born in a village in Moravia in 1854 and died in 1928. The article included a picture of him in his later years. Far from bald, his head was covered by a healthy thatch of white hair. It was so thick that Aomame couldnt tell much about the shape of his head. Sinfonietta was composed in 1926. Janáček had endured a loveless marriage, but in 1917, at the age of sixty-three, he met and fell in love with a married woman named Kamila. He had been suffering through a slump, but his encounter with Kamila brought back a vigorous creative urge, and he published one late-career masterpiece after another.
He and Kamila were walking in a park one day when they came across an outdoor concert and stopped to listen. Janáček felt a surge of joy go through his entire body, and the motif for his Sinfonietta came to him. Something seemed to snap in his head, he recounted years later, and he felt enveloped in ecstasy. By chance, he had been asked around that time to compose a fanfare for a major athletic event. The motif that came to him in the park and the motif of the fanfare became one, and Sinfonietta was born. The small symphony label is ordinary enough, but the structure is utterly nontraditional, combining the radiant brass of the festive fanfare with the gentle central European string ensemble to produce a unique mood.
Aomame took careful notes on the commentary and the biographical factual material, but the book gave no hint as to what kind of connection there wasor could have beenbetween herself and this Sinfonietta. She left the library and wandered aimlessly through the streets as evening approached, often talking to herself or shaking her head.
Of course, its all just a hypothesis, Aomame told herself as she walked. But its the most compelling hypothesis I can produce at the moment. Ill have to act according to this one, I suppose, until a more compelling hypothesis comes along. Otherwise, I could end up being thrown to the ground somewhere. If only for that reason, Id better give an appropriate name to this new situation in which I find myself. Theres a need, too, for a special name in order to distinguish between this present world and the former world in which the police carried old-fashioned revolvers. Even cats and dogs need names. A newly changed world must need one, too.
1Q84thats what Ill call this new world, Aomame decided.
Q is for question mark. A world that bears a question.
Aomame nodded to herself as she walked along.
Like it or not, Im here now, in the year 1Q84. The 1984 that I knew no longer exists. Its 1Q84 now. The air has changed, the scene has changed. I have to adapt to this world-with-a-question-mark as soon as I can. Like an animal released into a new forest. In order to protect myself and survive, I have to learn the rules of this place and adapt myself to them.
. . .

Aomame went to a record store near Jiyugaoka Station to look for Janáčeks Sinfonietta. Janáček was not a very popular composer. The Janáček section was quite small, and only one record contained Sinfonietta, a version with George Szell conducting the Cleveland Orchestra. The A side was Bartóks Concerto for Orchestra. She knew nothing about these performances, but since there was no other choice, she bought the LP. She went back to her apartment, took a bottle of Chablis from the refrigerator and opened it, placed the record on the turntable, and lowered the needle into the groove. Drinking the well-chilled wine, she listened to the music. It started with the same bright fanfare. This was the music she had heard in the cab, without a doubt. She closed her eyes and gave the music her complete concentration. The performance was not bad. But nothing happened. It was just music playing. She felt no wrenching of her body. Her perceptions underwent no metamorphosis.
After listening to the piece all the way through, she returned the record to its jacket, sat down on the floor, and leaned against the wall, drinking wine. Alone and absorbed in her thoughts, she could hardly taste the wine. She went to the bathroom sink, washed her face with soap and water, trimmed her eyebrows with a small pair of scissors, and cleaned her ears with a cotton swab.
Either Im funny or the worlds funny, I dont know which. The bottle and lid dont fit. It could be the bottles fault or the lids fault. In either case, theres no denying that the fit is bad.
Aomame opened her refrigerator and examined its contents. She hadnt been shopping for some days, so there wasnt much to see. She took out a ripe papaya, cut it in two, and ate it with a spoon. Next she took out three cucumbers, washed them, and ate them with mayonnaise, taking the time to chew slowly. Then she drank a glass of soy milk. That was her entire dinner. It was a simple meal, but ideal for preventing constipation. Constipation was one of the things she hated most in the world, on par with despicable men who commit domestic violence and narrow-minded religious fundamentalists.
When she was through eating, Aomame got undressed and took a hot shower. Stepping out, she dried herself off and looked at her naked body in the full-length mirror on the back of the door. Flat stomach, firm muscles. Lopsided breasts, pubic hair like a poorly tended soccer field. Observing her nakedness, she suddenly recalled that she would be turning thirty in another week. Another damn birthday. To think Im going to have my thirtieth birthday in this incomprehensible world, of all places! She knit her brows.
1Q84.
That was where she was now.

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