Book Review: Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World

Title: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Author: Haruki Murakami

Pages: 400

First Published: 1985

First Sentence: The elevator continued its impossibly slows ascent.

It took me three weeks to finish the book, but that’s because two weeks were spent in a summer school and the last week discovering the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Paris and Amsterdam. To abridge the reading experience: I devoured the second half of this book in a few days. And I loved it. Kind of. Just like the book itself is complicated, it’s difficult to label Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World simply as “good” or “bad”. Though if I had to choose, I’d lean more towards good.

“Without the mind, nothing leads anywhere.”

The book itself is written in alternating chapters of two seemingly different worlds, the first being Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and the other, which encloses the book, End of the World. One could almost read each part on its own, and it’ll still make as much sense.

For me, the book isn’t the kind of book that grips you from the first page. In fact, the first few chapters weren’t that interesting, I had to force myself to read them. But as the novel progresses, I begin to understand the characters (sort of), all these references to the other world appear and I start to connect the dots. Though in the end, these dots that make up the two worlds remain separate, they seem to be forming a bridge, some sort of connection, but you can’t seem to work out how to actually bring the two worlds together. Sigh. It really is complicated. You’ll understand when you read it.

“Could I have given happiness to anyone else?”

Then again, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a book that forces you to think. It won’t let you sit still and go through the whole book without questioning the world, how the mind works, your existence, time, parallel selves and all the possibilities that are here in the universe, all the maybes and what-ifs and impossibles.

Another thing I found is that I really enjoyed Murakami’s writing style. Some parts I had to reread because I’d been too absorbed by the beautiful rhythms of the paragraphs and how Murakami had strung the words, that I completely ignored the meaning of them (or maybe I was over-dramatizing, maybe I had to reread because Murakami was writing about an idea regarding the mind which was so complex my own mind couldn’t process it). Nonetheless, he’s successfully drawn me in to the world(s) he created, pondering about the ending long after I set the book down (if you’ve read the book, you’ll understand why).

Here are some quotes and passages from the book that’ll lure you into reading.

Many are the women who can take their clothes off seductively, but women who can charm as they dress?

“No war is won or lost until the final battle is over.”

Twelve solid hours. Let birds sing, let people go to work. Somewhere on there, a volcano might blow, Israeli commandos might decimate a Palestinian village. I couldn’t stop it. I was going to sleep.

“Will the morning sun thaw away even their death?”

“What do you associate with rain?”

“It rained the night my folks died.”

“Even cast aside, clothes know a permanence that eludes their wearers.”

What was lost was lost. There was no retrieving it, however you schemed, no returning to how things were, no going back.

I’ve decided I’m going to venture into more of Murakami’s wonderlands and get lost. Perhaps even for eternity, but I wouldn’t know.

Get it?


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