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

“My reality seemed to have left me and was now wandering around nearby. I hope it can find me, I thought.”

hard-boiled cover

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced” advised Soren Kierkgard. Tupac Shakur  argued that “Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real”. For Bob Dylan, reality “always had too many heads” and it’s precisely reality that is brought into question in this early hard-boiled novel by international best seller Murakami. Following a split-brained data processor, and a host of other characters including a disordered scientist and his portly granddaughter the reader is taken on a journey  guided by Wild Turkey Whiskey, Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls, librarians, and John Coltrane.

The story starts in an elevator. We, along with the protagonist are not sure where it’s going; wether up or down, sideways? “Maybe I’d circled the globe. How would I know?” We know it’s very slow and that there is no sound “Deep rivers run quiet”. There are no buttons, a still life: man in elevator. 


Illustration by Micha Lidberg for Nowness magazine


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Murakami’s books are, for me, a treat of the imagination. The familiarity used in his style at first disguises the strangeness we later encounter. He writes of the culturally familiar and slowly unravels our known world, exposing twists in reality and the absurd. In Hard-Boiled in particular we witness two paralel stories, one very much like a fable with an element of magic realism, which any fan of this genre will find greatly appealing.

Complement Hard-boiled Wonderland by reading the rest of Murakami’s equally, if very differently, bewitching work. Particularly recommend is The Wind up Bird Chronicle and After Dark. Alternatively you could listen to the Guardians short excerpt of his recent international best seller Colourless here.

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