The Murakami Mystery and the Modern Reader
Book title: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Author: Haruki Murakami
A Haruki Murakami novel is a blip in the system. On the shelves pressed between the Ms- Meyers and Murphies it seemed out of place, or perhaps that’s where it’s supposed to be, out there. Yet there is a craving for anything Murakami. His books sell like japanese cheesecakes. His latest release, the novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage sold one million copies in the first month in Japan alone and went on to become a top bestseller in the US months later.
A Haruki Murakami going bestseller is a mystery or perhaps the most obvious thing in the world. It was only a matter of time before he got me.
The first Haruki Murakami novel I read was his 1985 release Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.
It is a tale of two parallel worlds slowly merging together, the one, set in modern day Tokyo, the other set in a fantasy, surreal Town.
In Tokyo, a split-brain “human data processor” was summoned for a task by a mysterious scientist working on a confidential sound removal technology. In the other world, a newcomer is “in the process of being accepted in the Town” where fantastic beasts roam and shadows are cut-off from people.
The novel was described as cyberpunk and post-modern, cynical and fantastic, scifi and detective fiction. It is hard to pin down the novel into a genre. The result is a mind-bending adventure into the mysterious world of consciousness. Can it be possible for the right hand to be completely oblivious of what the left hand does? Is it possible for parts of our minds to have fantasies of its own? What constitutes a person? Cumbersome as these questions might be, we don’t need to be neuroscientists to ask them.
Maybe this is the kind of appeal that Haruki Murakami has to the modern reader. A kind of uncertainty that gives the mind the space to breathe so you could look into the world as it is, a mix of concrete and persistent realism as well as a disentangling mess of strangeness.
Needless to say, after my first Murakami, I never looked back. What’s your Haruki Murakami experience?