I’ve just completed Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, my second adventure through the imagination of Haruki Murakami and I loved it; but not until the final 150 pages or so. Strange, because I had almost exactly the same experience with Norwegian Wood, the first novel of his I read. So what is it with this author? It’s like a spell is woven, the final drop of which is only added near the end, but a vital drop that then transforms the entire novel.
It’s a risky strategy, if it is indeed a strategy, but in my opinion at least it is one that pays off. Perhaps it has something to do with Murakami’s dealings in fantasy, Hard Boiled Wonderland in particular affiliates itself with this genre but so does the more realistic Norwegian Wood. But even in the former novel, wherein one strand of the narrative takes place in what may be identified as a solely fantastic realm, it is not a realistic (that is to say believable) fantasy but more, perhaps, fantastic realism.
For Murakami writes, as identified by the Independent on Sunday, of contemporary life and emotions and manages to make poetry whilst doing it. In my enjoyment of his novels reaching its peak mere literary moments before the end I am not, in any way, debunking his writing in the rest of the novel prior to this moment. Murakami has a general mastery of his art, important not to forget I am reading him in translation, and he slips in his poetry bit by bit; incrementally weaving his spell.
Perhaps it is necessary for him to do this, for combining reality and fantasy with neither one predominating is no mean feat and Murakami, in not weaving his fantastic spell right from the start, manages to create a representation of mundane – real – contemporary life. His then speeding up the injection of fantasy as we reach the culmination of the novel’s plot-lines doesn’t seem too much, it fits with the reality presented.
Bizarrely, brilliantly, the end of Hard Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World removes the fantastic from the spell of the writing. It is pulled away from us, right when we are about to take the leap of faith and completely throw ourselves into the fantastic; leaving us only with reality, and lingering poetry.“Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope”