Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

"But how do you see you?" she asked.
"Ever read
The Brothers Karamazov?" I asked.
"Once, a long time ago."
"Well, toward the end, Alyosha is speaking to a young student named Kolya Krasotkin. And he says, Kolya, you're going to have a miserable future. But overall, you'll have a happy life."
Two beers down, I hesitated before opening my third.
"When I first read that, I didn't know what Alyosha meant," I said. "How was it possible for a life of misery to be happy overall? But then I understood, that misery could be limited to the future."
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Neither do I," I said. "Not yet."

Unlike any other author, I enjoy Murakami's work solely for his writing style. For the most part, I disregard the story-lines because... Well, I have no idea what the hell is going on in them. One of the first books I read in 2009 was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and I fell in love with Murakami's dreamlike prose and scatterbrained narrative. There's something hypnotic about his writing and its hard to put down even when the plotlines don't seem to make any sense.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland... tells two parallel story-lines. One of a 35-year old man making a living in a futuristic Tokyo as a sort of highfalutin* data encrypter fighting on one side of what he calls the 'infowars.' In typical Murakami fashion, a middle-aged man living a boring life, through the course of his everyday responsibilities, finds himself drawn into a confusing, complex series of events that could potentially lead to the end of the world.

The second story is more fantastic. Another man finds himself in a strange village with no memory of who he was before he arrived or how he got there. This village is inhabited by quiet, placid townspeople and beautiful unicorns that live in harmony with the townsfolk. When our protagonist is separated from his shadow and learns that his penumbra will shortly die without him, he begins a journey to escape from this mysterious town with his sundered companion.

Those two summaries are vague for two reasons: The intricacies of the story are two complex to go into here and even if I tried I'm not sure I would make any sense. Eventually the reader comes to understand (sorta) how the two stories relate to one another. Ultimately, Hard-Boiled Wonderland... is a story about consciousness and self. I enjoyed it thoroughly but, as I've said, that comes from the fact that I love Murakami's style so much that I can excuse a slightly convoluted plot.

* Can you believe this is actually a word?

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