Meditating aliens: Murakami metaphors II


I recently finished 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s three-volume, 1000-page “magnum opus.” Just as when I read Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Murakami’s usage of metaphor stood out to me, so I am once again reproducing a selection of metaphors from the novel. The list is only slightly curated to prune out some repetitive imagery. Having spent a lot of time with (or should I say, “in”) 1Q84 over the past month, I am enjoying revisiting these snippets and trying to recall, or re-imagine, what characters, events, and settings they referred to. Maybe they will spark your imagination, too.

  • like a lonely castaway on the open sea.
  • like an imaginary miniature cloud.
  • like a flock of birds swooping through an open window.
  • like a hibernating animal trying to wake up in the wrong season.
  • like the smoke from a bonfire on a windless afternoon.
  • like an old sorcerer chuckling to himself over an ominous prophecy he was about to reveal.
  • like a rock on the far side of the moon.
  • like a frightened little animal hiding way back in a cave.
  • like life-forms stirring in a primordial sea.
  • tantamount to giving a butterfly a skeleton.
  • like a lone planetary exploration rocket that has sailed beyond Pluto.
  • like a female fox cutting through the forest.
  • like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end.
  • like a whale rising to the surface to exchange all the air in its giant lungs.
  • as if some huge, ancient animal were waking itself from a long sleep.
  • like a camera’s diaphragm when the photographer adjusts the aperture.
  • like alchemy or perpetual motion.
  • like sediment in a bottle of wine.
  • as sharp and cold and pointed as a merciless idea.
  • like a player of chess or shogi who could see several moves ahead.
  • Like the unfortunate children in a Dickens novel.
  • like a piece of paper bearing the indecipherable text of a magic spell.
  • like the great karmic wheel of Indian mythology that kills every living thing in its path.
  • as if we’re playing a game in which everybody else can move only when I have my eyes closed.
  • as if a small eddy had suddenly begun to swirl inside her and had immediately quieted down.
  • like an oyster clinging to a sunken ship.
  • as though he were trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle without having been given all the pieces.
  • as though he were swallowing some imaginary thing.
  • like someone who has mistakenly swallowed a thick swatch of cloud.
  • like some historic massacre.
  • like a talented accountant who finds deep pleasure in the complex manipulation of figures in a ledger.
  • like little animals from an alien land that were deep in meditation.
  • like an expanse of earth that had been ground down by a glacier.
  • like a vacuum, absorbing all sound waves in the vicinity.
  • like the sighing of a disemboweled animal.
  • like ghosts tied in place by some ancient curse.
  • like vampire finches in search of blood.
  • like souls groping for their eternal resting places.
  • like a mistakenly applied shadow.
  • like someone who’s been thrown into the ocean at night, floating all alone.
  • like a veteran fisherman standing in the bow of his boat, reading the ominous confluence of two currents.
  • like a soldier on guard duty, determined not to miss the next signal flare sent up by the savage tribe on the distant hill.
  • like living in an empty town.
  • like chopping down a rope bridge.
  • like hornets having their nest poked.
  • like medieval village children trying to avoid a fearsome slave trader.
  • like vegetables raised in abundant sunshine.
  • Like a trade imbalance.
  • like a sailor trying to catch the song of a ship’s ghost.
  • like the smell of dew-laden flowers in midsummer.
  • like a vine’s new tendrils seeking sunlight.
  • like two young snakes in a spring meadow.
  • like the distant roar of the sea.
  • as if studying an insect undergoing metamorphosis.
  • like a little animal in hibernation.
  • like arranging the contents of a desk drawer.
  • like transferring a sleeping kitten to its bed.
  • like a snake that keeps going even after its head is cut off.
  • like a fisherman dragging his net, putting the items in order and mulling them over with great care.
  • like a brand-new brushstroke across the sky.
  • like a drop of dew in the morning sun.
  • like a mathematical proposition.
  • as if many souls were gathered, each whispering his story.
  • like something clammy sticking to your bare skin.
  • like fish that live at the bottom of the ocean.
  • like the mouth of a river where the seawater and the fresh water flow in.
  • like a shellfish at the bottom of a deep ocean, maintaining a strict silence.
  • like a secret switch being turned on.
  • like some indiscreet person who had wandered into a wake.
  • like an oyster stuck on a rock.
  • like my brain is a tub of tofu past its expiration date.
  • like musical notes being rewritten.
  • like a fairy in the throes of a lewd dream.
  • like a child hiding in its mother’s skirts.
  • like the coldhearted breath leaking out between the teeth of a person who has lost all hope.
  • Like a map showing buried pirate treasure.
  • like a code waiting to be deciphered.
  • Like Gregor Samsa when he turned into a beetle.
  • like ordinary citizens who had wandered across the front lines and stepped into a minefield.
  • like eyeballing a room to see if a piece of furniture would fit.
  • Like nameless birds returning to their shabby nests.
  • Like birds flying home to their nests at twilight.
  • like a pilot having just landed after a rough solo flight at night.
  • like sea turtles and porpoises poking their faces through the surface of the water to
  • like his head was filled with frozen lettuce.
  • like the skirt of a girl at play.
  • like being handed a pile of damp, heavy blankets.
  • Like a diver slowly acclimatizing his body to a change in water pressure.
  • Like the stone lid of an ancient coffin.
  • Like an image reflected to infinity in a pair of facing mirrors.
  • like listening to lines from an avant-garde translated play.
  • like the fingers of some ancient person shaking out a warning, with a desiccated, raspy sound.
  • like a long skirt whose hem had been accidentally dipped in dye.
  • like people standing beside the Pacific Ocean for the first time in their lives, awestruck at the waves crashing on the shore.

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