Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

infobox Book |
name = Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
title_orig = 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド
Sekai no owari to Hādoboirudo Wandārando
translator = Alfred Birnbaum

image_caption = Cover Artwork
author = Haruki Murakami
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = Japan
language = Japanese
series =
genre = Surrealism novel
publisher = Kodansha International
pub_date = 1985
english_pub_date = September 1991
media_type = Print
pages = 400 pp (US Edition)
618 pp (JP Edition)
isbn = ISBN 4-7700-1544-5 (US Edition)
ISBN 4-1060-0644-8 (JP Edition)

nihongo|"Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World"|世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド|Sekai no owari to Hādoboirudo Wandārando is a 1985 novel by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. The English translation by Alfred Birnbaum was released in 1991. A strange and dreamlike novel, its chapters alternate between two bizarre narratives - the 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland' and 'The End of the World' parts.

Plot summary

The story is split between parallel narratives. The odd-numbered chapters take place in 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland', although the phrase is not used anywhere in the text, only in page headers. The narrator is a "Calcutec," a human data processor/encryption system who has been trained to use his subconscious as an encryption key. The Calcutecs work for the quasi-governmental System, as opposed to the criminal "Semiotecs" who work for the Factory and who are generally fallen Calcutecs. The relationship between the two groups is simple: the System protects data while the Semiotecs steal it, although it is suggested that one man might be behind both. The narrator completes an assignment for a mysterious scientist, who is exploring "sound reduction". He works in a laboratory hidden within an anachronistic version of Tokyo's sewer system.

The even-numbered chapters deal with a newcomer to 'the End of the World', a strange, isolated walled Town depicted in the frontispiece map as being surrounded by forest. The narrator is in the process of being accepted into the Town. His shadow has been "cut off" and this shadow lives in the "shadow grounds" where he is not expected to survive the winter. Residents of the town are not allowed to have a shadow, and, it transpires, do not have a mind. Or is it only suppressed? The narrator is assigned quarters and a job as the current "dreamreader": a process intended to remove the traces of mind from the Town. He goes to the Library every evening where, assisted by the Librarian, he learns to read dreams from the skulls of unicorns. These "beasts" passively accept their role, sent out of the Town at night, to their enclosure where many die of cold during the winter.

The two storylines converge, exploring concepts of consciousness, the subconscious and identity.

In the original Japanese, the narrator uses the more formal first-person pronoun "watashi" to refer to himself in the 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland' narrative and the more intimate "boku" in the 'End of the World'. Translator Alfred Birnbaum achieved a similar effect in English by putting the 'End of the World' sections in the present tense. [Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words by Jay Rubin ISBN-10: 0099455447]


In both narratives, none of the characters are named. Each is instead referred to by occupation or a general description, such as "the librarian" or "the big guy."

Hard-boiled wonderland

*The narrator - a Calcutec who, aside from his unusual profession, lives the life of a typical Tokyo yuppie. Although very observant, he gives little thought to the strangeness of the world around him.
*The old man/the scientist - an absent-minded scientist who hires the narrator to process information. He is researching "sound reduction". He has developed a way of reading the subconscious and actually recording it as comprehensible, if unrrelated images. He had the inspiration of then editing these images to embed a fictional story into the subconscious of his subjects, on of whom if of course the narrator.
*The granddaughter - the old man’s assistant, caretaker and granddaughter, described as chubby but attractive, invariably dressed in pink. In the beginning of the novel, the old man "reduces" her sound, leaving her unable to speak. She tries, without any seductive language, to convince the narrator to sleep with her.
*The librarian - the always-hungry girl who helps the narrator research unicorns and becomes his 48-hour girlfriend.
*Junior and Big Boy - two thugs who, on unknown orders, harass the narrator.
*INKlings - sewer-dwelling people described as "Kappa" who have developed their own culture. They are so dangerous the scientist lives in their realm, protected by a repelling device, to keep away from those who want to steal his data.

End of the world

*The narrator - a newcomer to 'the End of the World'. As an initiation into the village, his shadow is cut off and his eyes pierced to give him the ability to "read dreams", his allotted task. He cannot remember his former life nor understand what has happened to him.
*The narrator's shadow - apparently human in form. He retains the narrator's memory of their former life together, but he is doomed to die, separated as he is, and is harshly (but not cruelly) treated by his custodian, the gatekeeper.
*The gatekeeper - the guardian and maintenance foreman of 'the End of the World.' He instructs the narrator in his duties, and keeps the narrator’s shadow effectively a prisoner, putting him to work - disposing of dead unicorns.
*The librarian - the Town’s librarian who keeps the unicorn skulls in which the "dreams" reside. She assists the narrator in his work. She has no “mind” but her mother did, and the narrator becomes increasingly convinced that her mind is in fact only hidden, not irretrievably lost. The connection between this librarian and the other, in Hard Boiled Wonderland, is never made explicit.
*The colonel - an old man, the narrator's neighbour provides advice and support, and nurses him when he falls sick.
*The caretaker - a young man who tends the power station. An outsider who provides a miniature accordion, a possible key in the narrator's efforts to recover his mind and memories.


Murakami has often referred to his love of Western literature and particular admiration for hard-boiled pioneer Raymond Chandler [ [http://www.worldpress.org/0801books1.htm Interview with Haruki Murukami] ] . 'Hard-Boiled Wonderland' owes much to American hardboiled detective fiction, as well as to science fiction and cyberpunk, but the book does not belong in any of those categories.

The 'end of the world' has much in common with "The Castle" by Franz Kafka. Both deal with newcomers to strange villages who are both intrigued and horrified by the behavior of the villagers. The image of losing one's shadow when approaching the end of the world is found in Knut Hamsun's 1898 novel "Victoria". The same idea appeared earlier, in the 1814 story of "Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte" ("Peter_Schlemihl's Remarkable Story") by Adelbert_von_Chamisso. The theme of the human brain storing encrypted data is found in William Gibson's short story "Johnny Mnemonic", but in interviews Murakami says this was not an influence.

Critical acclaim

Jay Rubin, who has translated many of Murakami's later works into English, said that "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" is his favorite Murakami novel and that it "is just a shock after reading the black and white, autobiographical fiction that is such the norm in Japan."

"Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" was awarded the prestigious Tanizaki Prize in 1985.

Book information

"Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World" (English edition) by Haruki Murakami; translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
* Hardcover ISBN 4-7700-1544-5, published in September 1991 by Kodansha International
* Paperback ISBN 0-679-74346-4, published on March 2, 1993 by Vintage Press


* Jay Rubin, "Haruki Murakami And The Music Of Words" (2005)Rubin interviewed Murakami several times between 1993 and 2001 and has translated several of his novels.
*William S. Haney, "Cyberculture, Cyborgs and Science Fiction: Consciousness and the Posthuman" (2006)Page 131: chapter dealing with "Hard Boiled Wonderland". Extract on http://books.google.co.uk
*Susan Jolliffe Napier, "The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature: The Subversion of Modernity" (1996)Page 127: brief analysis of the novel. Extract on http://books.google.co.uk

External links

* [http://www.exorcising-ghosts.co.uk/endoftheworld.html Exorcising Ghosts] Page with links to reviews and articles
* [http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/10/24/102923.php Blogcritics.org Review]

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