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Life of a truecel in Murakami's novel 1Q84

Fardin Khan

Fardin Khan

Only mediapill is real
Feb 26, 2024
Ushikawa’s appearance made him stand out. He did not have the sort of looks suited for stakeouts or tailing people. As much as he might try to lose himself in a crowd, he was as inconspicuous as a centipede in a cup of yogurt.

His family wasn’t like that at all. Ushikawa’s family consisted of his parents, an older and younger brother, and a younger sister. His father ran a health clinic, where his mother was the bookkeeper. Both brothers were outstanding students, attended medical school, and became doctors. His older brother worked in a hospital in Tokyo,while his younger brother was a research doctor at a university. When his father retired, his older brother was due to take over the family clinic in Urawa, a suburb of Tokyo. Both brothers were married and had one child. Ushikawa’s sister had studied at a college in the United States and was now back in Japan, working as an interpreter. She was in her mid-thirties but still single. All his siblings were slim and tall, with pleasantly oval features.

In almost every respect, particularly in looks, Ushikawa was the exception in his family. He was short, with a large, misshapen head and unkempt, frizzy hair. His legs were stumpy and bent like cucumbers. His popping eyes always looked startled, and he had a thick layer of flesh around his neck. His eyebrows were bushy and large and nearly came together in the middle. They looked like two hairy caterpillars reaching out to each other. In school he had generally gotten excellent grades, but his performance in some subjects was erratic and he was particularly hopeless at sports.

In this affluent, self-satisfied, elite family, he was the foreign element, the sour,dissonant note that ruined the familial harmony. In family photos he looked like the odd man out, the insensitive outsider who had pushed his way into the group and had his picture taken with them.

The other members of his family couldn’t understand how someone who didn’t resemble them in the least could be one of them. But there was no mistaking the fact that his mother had given birth to him, with all the attendant labor pains (her recollection was how particularly painful that birth had been). No one had laid him at their doorstep in a basket. Eventually, someone recalled that there was a relative who also had an over sized, misshapen head—Ushikawa’s grandfather’s cousin. During the war he had worked in a metal shop in Koto Ward in Tokyo, but he died in the massive air raid in the spring of 1945. His father had never met the man, though he had a photo of him in an old album. When the family saw the photo, they exclaimed, “It all makes sense now!” Ushikawa and his uncle were such peas in a pod that you would think that Ushikawa was the man reincarnated. The genetic traits of this uncle had, for whatever reason, surfaced once more.

The Ushikawa family of Urawa, Saitama Prefecture, would have been the per fectfamily—in both looks and academic and career achievements—if only Ushikawa hadn’t existed. They would have been the kind of memorable, photogenic family that anyone would envy. But with Ushikawa in the mix, people tended to frown and shake their heads. People might begin to think that somewhere along the line a joker or two had tripped up the goddess of beauty. No, they definitely must think this, his parents decided, which is why they tried their hardest to keep him out of the public eye or at least make sure he didn’t stand out (though the attempt was always pointless).

Being put in this situation, however, never made Ushikawa feel dissatisfied, sad, or lonely. He wasn’t sociable to begin with and usually preferred to stay in the shadows.He wasn’t particularly fond of his brothers and sister. From Ushikawa’s perspective,they were irretrievably shallow. To him, their minds were dull, their vision narrow and devoid of imagination, and all they cared about was what other people thought.More than anything, they were completely lacking in the sort of healthy skepticism needed to attain any degree of wisdom.

Ushikawa’s father was a moderately successful doctor of internal medicine in the countryside, but he was so utterly boring that talking with him gave you chest pains.Like the king whose touch turned everything to gold, every single word he uttered turned into insipid grains of sand. But as a man of few words he was able—probably unintentionally—to conceal how boring and ignorant he really was. In contrast, his mother was a real talker, a hopeless snob. Money was everything to her, and she was self-centered and proud, loved anything gaudy and showy, and could always be counted on to bad-mouth other people in a shrill voice. Ushikawa’s older brother had inherited his father’s disposition; his younger brother had his mother’s. His sister was very independent. She was irresponsible and had no consideration for others. As the baby of the family, she had been totally pampered and spoiled by her parents.

All of which explained why, since he was a boy, Ushikawa had kept to himself.When he came home from school, he had shut himself in his room and gotten lost in books. He had no friends other than his dog, so he never had the chance to talk with someone about what he had learned, or debate anyone. Still, he was convinced that he was a clear, eloquent, logical thinker, and he patiently honed these abilities all by himself. For instance, he would propose an idea for discussion and debate it, taking both sides. He would passionately argue in support of the proposition, then argue—just as vigorously—against it. He could identify equally with either of the two positions and was completely and sincerely absorbed by whatever position he happened to be supporting at the moment. Before he had realized it, these exercises had given him the talent to be skeptical about his own self, and he had come to the recognition that most of what is generally considered the truth is entirely relative.Subject and object are not as distinct as most people think. If the boundary separatingthe two isn’t clear-cut to begin with, it is not such a difficult task to intentionally shift back and forth from one to the other.

In order to use logic and rhetoric more clearly and effectively, he filled his mind with whatever knowledge he could find—both what he thought would be useful andwhat he was pretty sure was the opposite. He chose things he agreed with, and things that, initially, he opposed. It wasn’t cultivation and learning in the usual sense that hewas after, but more tangible information—something you could actually handle,something with a real shape and heft.

That huge, misshapen head of his turned out to be the perfect container for these quantities of accumulated information. Thanks to all this, he was far more erudite thanany of his contemporaries. If he felt like it, he knew he could shoot down anybody in an argument—not just his siblings or classmates, but his teachers and parents as well.But he didn’t want to attract any kind of attention if he could avoid it, so he kept this ability hidden. Knowledge and ability were tools, not things to show off.

Ushikawa began to think of himself as a nocturnal creature, concealed in a dark forest, waiting for prey to wander by. He waited patiently for an opportunity, and when it came he would leap out and grab it. But until that point, he couldn’t let his opponent know he was there. It was critical to keep a low profile and catch the other person off guard. Even as an elementary school pupil, he had thought this way. He never depended on others or readily revealed his emotions.

Sometimes he imagined how his life would be if he had been born a little better looking. He didn’t need to be handsome. There was no need to look that impressive.He just needed to be normal-looking, or enough so that people wouldn’t turn and stare. If only I had been born like that, he wondered, what sort of life would I have led? But this was a supposition that exceeded his powers of imagination. Ushikawa was too Ushikawa-like, and there was no room in his brain for such hypotheses. It was precisely because of his large, misshapen head, his bulging eyes, and his short,bandy legs that he was who he was, a skeptical young boy, full of intellectual curiosity, quiet but eloquent.

As the years passed the ugly boy grew up into an ugly youth, and before he knew it,into an ugly middle-aged man. At every stage of his life, people continued to turn and stare. Children would stare unabashedly at him. When I become an ugly old man,Ushikawa sometimes thought, then maybe I won’t attract so much attention. But he wouldn’t know for sure. Maybe he would end up the ugliest old man the world had ever seen.

Whenever Ushikawa had trouble coming up with a good idea, he liked to take along, lukewarm soak in the tub, so he went back home and drew a bath. As he lay in the acrylic bathtub, he listened to Sibelius’s violin concerto on the radio. He didn’t particularly want to listen to Sibelius—and Sibelius’s concerto wasn’t exactly the right music to listen to at the end of a long day as you soaked in the tub. Perhaps, he mused, Finnish people liked to listen to Sibelius while in a sauna during their long nights. But in a tiny, one-unit bathroom of a two-bedroom condo in Kohinata, Bunkyo Ward, Sibelius’s music was too emotional, too tense. Not that this bothered him—as long as there was some background music, he was fine. A concerto by Rameau would do just as well, nor would he have complained if it had been Schumann’s Carnaval. The radio station just happened to be broadcasting Sibelius’s violin concerto. That was all there was to it.
As usual, Ushikawa let half his mind go blank and thought with the other half.David Oistrakh’s performance of Sibelius went through the blank half of his mind,like a gentle breeze wafting in through a wide-open entrance and out through a wide open exit. Maybe it was not the most laudable way of appreciating music. If Sibelius knew his music was being treated this way, it was easy to imagine how those large eyebrows would frown, the folds of his thick neck coming together. But Sibelius had died long ago, and even Oistrakh had long since gone to his grave. So Ushikawa could do as he pleased and let the music filter from right to left, as the unblank half of his brain toyed with random thoughts.

In times like these, Ushikawa didn’t like to have a set objective. He let his thoughts run free, as if he were releasing dogs on a broad plain. He would tell them to go wherever they wanted and do whatever they liked, and then he would just let them go.He sank down in the bathwater up to his neck, closed his eyes, and, half listening to the music, let his mind wander. The dogs frolicked around, rolled down slopes,gamboled after each other tirelessly, chased pointlessly after squirrels, then came back, covered in mud and grass, and Ushikawa patted their heads and fastened their collars back on. The music came to an end. Sibelius’s violin concerto was a roughly thirty-minute piece—just the right length. The next piece, the announcer intoned, is Janáček’s Sinfonietta. Ushikawa had a vague memory of hearing the name of the piece before, but he couldn’t remember exactly. When he tried to recall, his vision turned strangely cloudy and indistinct, as if a cream-colored mist had settled over his eyeballs. He must have stayed too long in the bath, he decided. He gave up, switched off the radio, got out of the bathtub, wrapped a towel around his waist, and got a beer from the fridge.

Ushikawa lived by himself. He used to have a wife and two small daughters. They had bought a house in the Chuorinkan District in Yamato, in Kanagawa Prefecture. It was a small house, but they had a garden and a dog. His wife was good-lookingenough, and his daughters were even pretty. Neither daughter had inherited anything of Ushikawa’s looks, which was a great relief.

Then, like a sudden blackout on the stage between acts, he was alone. He found it hard to believe that there had ever been a time when he had a family and lived with them in a house in the suburbs. Sometimes he was even sure the whole thing must be a misunderstanding, that he had unconsciously fabricated this past for himself. But it had actually happened. He had actually had a wife he shared a bed with and two children who shared his bloodline. In his desk drawer, he had a family photo of the four of them. They were all smiling happily. Even the dog seemed to be grinning.

There was no likelihood that they would ever be a family again. His wife and daughters lived in Nagoya now. The girls had a new father, the kind of father with normal looks who wouldn’t embarrass them when he showed up at parent-teacher conference day. The girls hadn’t seen Ushikawa for nearly four years, but they didn’t seem to regret this. They never even wrote to him. It didn’t bother Ushikawa much either that he couldn’t see his daughters. This didn’t mean that his daughters weren’t important to him. It was just that now his top priority was simply keeping himself secure, so for the time being he had to switch off any unnecessary emotional circuits and focus on the tasks at hand.

Plus, he knew this: that no matter how far away his daughters went from him, his blood still flowed inside them. His daughters might forget all about him, but that blood would not lose its way. Blood had a frighteningly long memory. And the sign of that large head would, sometime, somewhere in the future, reappear, in an unexpected time and unexpected place. When it did, people would sigh and remember that Ushikawa had once existed .

Ushikawa might be alive to witness this eruption, or perhaps not. It didn’t really matter. He was satisfied just to know that it was possible. It wasn’t like he was hoping for revenge. Rather, he felt content to know that he was, unavoidably, an inherent part of the world’s structure.He sat down on his sofa, plopped his stubby legs up on the table, and, as he sipped his beer, a thought suddenly came to him. It might not work out, he thought, but it was worth trying. It’s so simple—why hadn’t it occurred to me? he wondered, finding it odd. Maybe the easiest things are the hardest to come up with. Like they say, people miss what’s going on right under their noses.
There's also a dickpill inside the book
brutal, good post i imagine when reading a lot aspect of my life...
brutal, good post i imagine when reading a lot aspect of my life...

this picture came in my mind when I was reading this

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