Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Sunny-Side-Up is a weekly column celebrating clear blue skies, fancy bookmarks and the snooze button. In other words, expect book/film reviews, DIY crafts and easy recipes for a lovely weekend.

“I can only remember two things,” I say. “That the town I lived in had no wall around, and that our shadows followed us wherever we walked.”

Haruki Murakami’s a literary genius. That much can be said as I immersed myself in the fantasy world of his mind. From unicorn skulls to Bob Dylan, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is an original mix of East and West, tossed about in impossibly surrealistic conceptions.

(Yes, it’s a library book, in one of my feeble attempts to save some dough.)

Open your eyes, train your ears, use your head. If a mind you have, then use it while you can.

Split between two parallel narratives — Hard-boiled Wonderland, and The End of the World — the novel tells of a “Calcutec”, a human data processor who had been used as a living specimen in a brain experiment. Eventually, the stories converge as it is finally revealed to the Calcutec that he would spend eternity in his subconscious mind entitled “The End of the World”.

This is the End of the World. This is where the world ends. Nowhere further to go.

Maybe you need a magnifying glass to find my face in my high school graduation photo. Maybe I haven’t got any family or friends. Yes, yes, I know all that. But, strange as it might seem, I’m not entirely dissatisfied with this life. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want any unicorns behind fences.

Exploring the themes of identity and the conscious/unconscious mind, it’s interesting to note that none of the characters were explicitly named. They were identified by their professions, e.g. the Librarian and the Gatekeeper, or their appearances, e.g. the Old Man and the Shadow.

Life’s no piece of cake, mind you, but the recipe’s my own to fool with.

Most human activities are predicated on the assumption that life goes on. If you take that premise away, what is there left?

What gives a person personality? Would you rather be trapped in mindless immortality, or live with the knowledge of death? Such are the questions raised repeatedly. Do you have the answers?

First published in 1985, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World had been written before I was even born. Yet the underlying themes are still very much relevant today — which is why this book is such a timeless read.

She rolled down her panty hose as a bluesy Ray Charles came on with Georgia on My Mind. Everything, everything, seemed once-upon-a-time. The clothes on the floor, the music, the conversation. Round and round it goes, and where it stops everyone knows.

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