Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

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Title: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Author:  Haruki Murakami
Translator: Alfred Birnbaum
Publication Date: 1991
Format: e-book
Pages: 343
Genre: Fiction
Count for Year: 2

How I discovered

That’s a long story how I discovered this. Technically, I discovered Murakami years ago at a public library near where I grew up. I took out his A Wild Sheep Chase because it looked intriguing and I wasn’t disappointed. Since then, I’ve wanted to read more Murakami, but only have read Kafka’s Shore until now. A friend of mine, Joe, always mentioned this book and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as two other Murakamis that I should read, so when last month, I saw that tanabata of the blog In Spring It Is The Dawn was sponsoring a Huraki Murakami Reading Challenge, I thought I’d join. And here I am.

The setup

Japan’s most popular fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Murakami draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his undemure granddaughter, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide in dazzling effect.

— from the publisher


For last week’s Midweek Review, I wrote about “brain-tingling” authors and listed Murakami as one of them, because, and I quote from my post last week: “You never know quite where Murakami is going and you get the feeling that somehow he doesn’t either.” That was based on where I was at the time in the book. As I progressed further into the book, I began to get a clearer picture of what the book was about than I thought I would.

At first, though, as I wrote last week all I knew was that one of the main protagonist was involved in a futuristic world with something called shuffling and laundering. It had to do with arranging numbers in your brain, but beyond that, I’m not sure I understood it. A parallel story, which is told in alternating chapters, dealt with a man in an ancient land who is reading the dreams from skulls of unicorns. The two stories began to collide when the first man found a skull of what possibly could be a unicorn:

Great, I thought just great. Why were all these bizarre things happening to me? What had I ever done to deserve this? I was just your practical-minded, lone-wolf Calcutec. I wasn’t overly ambitious, wasn’t greedy. Didn’t have family, friends, or lovers. When I retired, I was planning to settle down and learn the cello or Greek. How on earth did I get mixed up in this?

Meanwhile, the other man also is questioning himself, and why he is in this strange world which is called the End of the World:

Why did I cast off my past to come here to the End of the World? What possible event or meaning or purpose could there have been? Why can I not remember?

Something has summoned me here. Something intractable. And for this, I have forfeited my shadow and my memory.

The answers to both of their questions will be answered by the end, but not before the one must try to find a way out of this world for his shadow, from which he has been separated, and the other must navigate through a subterranean world inhabited by creatures called INKlings. How will the two men survive? Will they survive?

I could tell you but that then would ruin the end of the book for you. Needless to say, it is a journey well worth undertaking, because Murakami, as well as his translator, is a master of language. After awhile, you begin to get a feeling of where he is going, but then you’re not quite sure and even if you are, you want to see how he gets there. At least, I did…and for that reason, I give this book a 4 out of 5.

My rating system:

5- Classic, must read
4- Worth owning a copy
3- Worth picking up at library
2- Worth skimming at the bookstore
1- Worth being a doorstop