By Haruki Murakami. Knopf. Pp. 944. $30.50
Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami is quite the phenom, his every work awaited, it is said, with Harry Potter-like expectancy. When I learned that the book depicted a “Leader” who willingly allowed himself to be killed for what may be the greater good, I thought it might be worthwhile. Perhaps there was a sign here of some under-the-radar Christianity waiting to break through (whether Murakami intended it or not).
I now find myself as perplexed as the professional reviewers. They, it seems, are far from a consistent judgment, even to the point of a highly critical review in The New York Times’ daily pages competing with great praise in The New York Times Book Review. Whether the novel has any implicit Christian thought is, in the end, unclear.
The Leader may have allowed his own extrajudicial murder not for self-sacrifice but for the unsavory purposes of “Little People” who, in this alternate world (1984 with a Q for question) menace humans, particularly prepubescent girls. There is a miraculous conception in the book, but it happens to a woman who is far from virginal. It is hard to see that as the conception of a savior.
And yet everything turns on that miraculous conception. Thus, regardless of one’s judgment — whether one finds this 900-page novel tedious or gripping, whether it is a masterpiece or a ridiculously under-edited sprawl of detail, whether it has serious religious elements or just toys with what should be profound, whether, in
short, it is a book of enduring merit or merely a passing entertainment — it is remarkable that the plot of this international best-seller turns upon the decision to accept and preserve in safety an unborn child. Here is another sign that our world is, ever so quietly, stepping away from abortion neutrality.
The Rev. Victor Lee Austin
New York, New York