Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hard Boiled Wonderland and The Edge of the World by Haruki Murakami

Hard Boiled Wonderland and The Edge of the World by Haruki Murakami (1985, 416 pages)

My Prior Posts on Haruki Murakami

The Reading Life Japanese Literature Project

I think it is a safe bet that one or maybe even the most blogged about new book in translation for the rest of 2011 will be IQ84 by Haruki Murakami (1949, Japan).  It is coming out in October and is nearly 1000 pages long.   I have posted on a number of his novels and short stories over the last two years.   He is one of my favorite writers and his picture is featured in my header collage.   Reading Hard Boiled Wonderland and The Edge of the World almost completes a read of all of his in print translated novels for me.    If he does not win the Nobel Prize for Literature soon, it can only be because the committee does not want to give it to a  Japanese writer so soon after Oe Kenzaburo won in 1994.

Hard Boiled Wonderland and The Edge of the World  could almost be subtitled A Tale of Two Cities.   The odd  number chapters are set in a place called Hardboiled Wonderland.   It is narrated (none of the characters are given names) by a human data encrypter who has been taught how to use his subconscious mind as a key to decoding encryptions.    He works for some sort of government like organization whose work is in turn opposed by a shadowy underground group of people called semiotics who try to steal data from the organization.   It is all very Kafkaesque with strange meetings in odd buildings with officials who both make little sense and seem to have the key to unlocking the secrets that will explain your seemingly senseless life to yourself.

The even numbered chapters are set in a strange very isolated town which is The End of the World.   This section of the novel is very much in the tradition of magic realism and is really brilliantly done.   It is a scary place but for sure an interesting one.   The town is surrounded by a wall nothing can get through in either direction.   The nameless narrator is in the process of being integrated into the very strange life of the town.   His job is to be a dream reader.   There are also lots of unicorns in the town.  One of the common things that does link up both worlds is unicorn skulls.

The puzzle of this novel, among many others, is to see what the structural and thematic connections of the even and odd numbers sections can be seen to be.  If  you know please leave me a comment!

Hard Boiled Wonderland and The Edge of the World is really a fun read.  Like most of his work, there are some sex scenes and Murakami is a master at describing the bodies of women.   In most all of his works, you will find a woman who for no clear reason throws herself at a "nerd" like central male character in the book.    There are all sort of really enjoyable references to mostly American movies and music and western Literature in the book.   People who went to college in the late 1960s will relate well to the Bob Dylan references.

I read both this and The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann on my PC, switching back and forth.   Once I thought I was reading Mann's work when I was in fact reading Murakami and admit I was very shocked by what I thought was the quite explicit sex scene that seemed so out of place in Mann.  I laughed at my reaction when I figured it out!

I endorse this book for all Murakami fans (most of whom probably read the book long ago).   I do not suggest it as a first Murakami.    It was translated in 1991 by Arthur Birnbaum.

Will you reading IQ84 soon?

Mel u


Harvee said...

Looking forward to IQ84 but must finish reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle first. It requires concentration and quiet and I can't sit still long enough to finish the whole thing! And I see his new book is twice as long~

Mel u said...

Harvee-I really liked The Wind Up Bird Chronicle a lot-the sections set in WWII in China were very powerful-one of the reasons I pushed through now with reading Hardboiled Wonderland at the Edge of the World was to sort of clear the decks for IQ84-it will be super big for Japanese literature in translation readers-big literally and figuratively

bokusenou said...

Interesting, I was thinking of reading this as my first Murakami book, since the plot seemed the most interesting to me, but after reading your review I'm not sure. Which book would you reccomend as a "first Murakami" book?

Mel u said...

bokusenou-thanks so much for your visit-my first Murakami was After Dark-an interesting look at the late night life of Tokyo-I also recommend to those new to Murakami Norwegian Wood and Sputnik Sweetheart-His most powerful work to date, in my opinion, is The Wild Bird Chronicles.

Unknown said...

In my review of this, my strong recommendation was also that this is not a good starter Murakami - it's the most sci-fi/spec-fic novel he's done...

...althoug I hear that 1Q84 is pretty out there too :)

Fiona said...

This is my favourite of Murakami's I think... I read it last year.

I can't wait for 1Q84... simply can't wait. Of course I still have others of his I haven't read, which probably won't stop me from getting 1Q84 immediately anyway.

Mel u said...

Tony-glad we agree-I am looking forward to learning more about IQ84-I am not sure when I will read it as I have a long standing self impose ban on buying hard bound fiction-thanks for your comment and visit

@parridhlantern said...

My first Murakami was Kafka on the shore, although would probably recommend after dark or Norwegian Wood as a first read. The only one apart Iq84 of not read is hear the wind sing & hope to get IQ84 soon.

WordsBeyondBorders said...

Looking forward to IQ84

mee said...

I actually just started reading this book! I don't think I would rush to read IQ84 though. Think I will wait for it to calm down a bit.

bokusenou said...

Thanks for replying! I'll have to look into reading those. ^-^