2 min read

On the Alluring Lifestyle of Tengo, from Haruki Murakami's 1Q84

I read 1Q84 a year ago, and there was this character I adored, Tengo. Tengo lives a simple life. He teaches math three days a week at a cram school, and spends four days at home.

Murakami on Tengo's four days at home:

When he was home, Tengo usually wrote from first thing in the morning until the approach of the evening. All he needed to satisfy him was his Mont Blanc pen, his blue ink, and standard manuscript sheets, each page lined with four hundred empty squares ready to accept four hundred characters.Once a week his married girlfriend would come to spend the afternoon with him. Sex with a married woman ten years his senior was stress free and fulfilling, because it wouldn’t lead to anything. As the sun was setting, he would head out for a long walk, and once the sun was down, he would read a book while listening to music. He never watched television.

For me, there is something in Tengo’s lifestyle that is alluring. His days are simple, comforting, routine. There is no drama, or surprise. This seems preferable, certainly, to the busiest days in my life. There are no tight deadlines, or messy social affairs. Tengo’s world is unperturbed by any external pressures or effects.

While I feel all this, I wonder if there is something unhealthy in Tengo’s lifestyle. He has no friends or significant relationships, outside his editor and his married girlfriend. Tengo has no goals. He does have desires: to him, writing is breathing, and he desires to write Fuka-Eri’s book. Yet, he never takes action on his own. He has habitual actions (walking, reading, cooking) and actions precipitated by others, calls from his editor and his girlfriend. He makes decisions for himself, but small decisions: what meal to cook, what record to play.

I envy this life. At the least, facets of it. I envy that, in Tengo’s life, there are few ways to be disappointed, and all the time do what you enjoy. I also envy that, Tengo does what he likes, for the larger part of the day. He teaches math, he writes, reads, listens to music, cooks. These activities are serene.

From this, I conclude while Tengo’s life is unhealthy to an extent, portrayed later in the novel, people should strives for parts of his life. Turn down the noise, and focus on doing what you like, and spending time with who you like.

I will try to have my days look a little more like Tengo’s, but with time for friends and family.