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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

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Overview

In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero ...

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Overview

In this hyperkinetic and relentlessly inventive novel, Japan’s most popular (and controversial) fiction writer hurtles into the consciousness of the West. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World draws readers into a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect. What emerges is simultaneously cooler than zero and unaffectedly affecting, a hilariously funny and deeply serious meditation on the nature and uses of the mind.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Murakami’s bold willingness to go straight over the top [is] a signal indication of his genius . . . a world-class writer who has both eyes open and takes big risks.” –The Washington Post Book World

“He has become the foremost representative of a new style of Japanese writing: hip, cynical, highly stylized, set at the juncture of cyberpunk, postmodernism, and hard-boiled detective fiction. . . . Murakami [is] adept at deadpan wit, outrageous style.” –Los Angeles Times Magazine

“Fantastical, mysterious, and funny . . . a fantasy world that might have been penned by Franz Kafka.” –Philadelphia Inquirer

“Rich in action, suspense, odd characters and unexpected trifles . . . [a] provocative work.” –The Atlantic

“Murakami’s gift is for ironic observations that hint at something graver. . . . He is wry, absurd, and desolate.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

“[A] mix of American fun and Japanese dread.” –Esquire

“An intertwining DNA model of seemingly contrary elements . . . a combination of Kafka’s castle, Borges’s library, and the Prisoner’s TV village.” –Village Voice Literary Supplement

“Off the wall . . . hilariously bizarre . . . splendid . . . a remarkable book . . . Alfred Birnbaum . . . has captured the crazed, surreal feel of Murakami’s Japanese.” –The Times (London)

“His novels . . . are set on fast-forward: raucous, slangy, irreverent.” –Details

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
There ought to be a name for the genre Murakami ( A Wild Sheep Chase ) has invented, and it might be the literary pyrotechno-thriller. The plot here is so elaborate that about 100 pages, one-fourth of the book, elapse before its various elements begin to fit together, but Murakami's lightning prose more than sustains the reader. Embellished with witticisms, wordplay and allusions to such figures as Stendhal heroes and Lauren Bacall, the tale is set in a Tokyo of the near future. Thanks to a wonderland of technology, an intelligence agent has had his brain implanted with a ``profoundly personal drama'' that allows him to ``launder'' and ``shuffle'' classified data, and all that he knows of the drama is its password, The End of the World. But after interference from a scientist and from the Semiotecs, a rival intelligence unit, the subconscious story is about to replace the agent's own perceptions of reality. Intertwined with the agent's attempts to understand his plight are scenes from The End of the World. Murakami's ingenuity and inventiveness cannot fail to intoxicate; this is a bravura performance. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The last surviving victim of an experiment that implanted the subjects' heads with electrodes that decipher coded messages is the unnamed narrator of this excellent book by Murakami, one of Japan's best-selling novelists and winner of the prestigious Tanizaki prize. Half the chapters are set in Tokyo, where the narrator negotiates underground worlds populated by INKlings, dodges opponents of both sides of a raging high-tech infowar, and engages in an affair with a beautiful librarian with a gargantuan appetite. In alternating chapters he tries to reunite with his mind and his shadow, from which he has been severed by the grim, dark ``replacement'' consciousness implanted in him by a dotty neurophysiologist. Both worlds share the unearthly theme of unicorn skulls that moan and glow. Murakami's fast-paced style, full of hip internationalism, slangy allegory, and intrigue, has been adroitly translated. Murakami is also author of A Wild Sheep Chase ( LJ 10/15/89); his new work is recommended for academic libraries and public libraries emphasizing serious contemporary fiction.-- D.E. Perushek, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville
Kirkus Reviews
Winner of the Tanizaki Literary prize (the Japanese equivalent of the Pulitzer), by acclaimed young Japanese novelist Murakami: a stunning combination of the contemporary and brash with elegiac allegory, all topped off by a strong measure of cyberpunk. The "hard-boiled" hero, 35 and divorced, is a man of possessions—a collection of imported whiskeys; interests—old American movies and cooking; but no emotions. Which, coupled with his brilliant work on computers, makes him the ideal candidate for a mysterious aging scientist holed up under the sewers of Tokyo. Here, protected by a waterfall and by flesh-devouring creatures, the INKlings, from the two competing information organizations that control everything in the country, the scientist has devised a perfect secret code by operating on the brains of selected computer workers. The hero, summoned to the scientist's lair, is presented with a unicorn's skull and told of a project called "The End of the World." Alternating between these encounters with the scientist, the scientist's granddaughter, and bully-boys bent on finding out what he knows, there is the story of the ancient walled town at the end of the world. In this home of one-horned beasts, a young man arrives, is separated from his shadow, and is set to work interpreting the dreams of the skulls in the library. The two worlds increasingly connect and at the end fuse, with the hero, though certifiably dead, for the first time morally and emotionally alive and resistant to the society's pervasive control of the individual. One of those rare postmodern novels that is as intellectually profound as stylistically accomplished, by a writer with a bold and originalvision.
Publishers Weekly
Murakami's two stories--which alternate, chapter by chapter--are told by two narrators, who split duties here. Ian Porter is the baritone, thoughtful and deliberative; Adam Sims is lighter spirited, flightier, and more amused by the bizarre comedy of Murakami's puzzle box. Both readers are well chosen, expertly picking their way across the minefield of this intoxicating, perplexing story. And their balancing act mimics the book's alternation of tones, styles, and stories. The recording is studded by occasional studio sound effects that are hardly necessary, but do manage to cleverly amplify the woozy, trippy disorientation of the tale. A Vintage paperback. (May)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679743460
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1993
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 32,692
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami
Writing in a style that is deceptively plainspoken, Haruki Murakami finds a dreamlike common ground between Japan and the West, conscious and subconscious. His heroes lose themselves in quests that we may not always understand, but are hopelessly compelled to follow.

Biography

The The story of how Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist says a lot about his work, because it is as strange and culturally diffuse as the works he writes. While watching a baseball game in Toyko in 1978 between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp, Murakami witnessed an American hit a double. At the crack of the bat, Murakami -- who had never had any ambition to write because he assumed he didn't have the talent -- decided that he should begin a novel. He then started his first book, in the night hours after work.

If you're waiting for a connection between the double and the epiphany, there isn't one. It's often that way in Murakami's fiction, where cultures blend and seemingly incongruous, inexplicable events move the story forward. People disappear or transform as quickly as the worlds around them, and the result is a dreamlike atmosphere that blends mystery, magic realism and sci-fi while remaining unmistakably distinct from all three.

Murakami was brought up in a suburb of Kobe by parents who were teachers of Japanese literature; but the literature of his parents did not interest him and he read mostly American authors, listened to American jazz and watched American shows. For this reason, though his books are set in Japan and originally written in Japanese, they do not seem terribly foreign to English speakers. South of the Border, West of the Sun's title derives from a Nat King Cole song; and you're as likely to find a reference to McDonald's, Cutty Sark or F. Scott Fitzgerald as you are to anything Japanese.

Murakami began his career with the coming-of-age novels Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973, but he hit his stride with A Wild Sheep Chase, a novel about a twentysomething ad executive who is drawn into the quest for an elusive, mutant sheep. The novel appeared in the U.S. seven years after its 1982 publication, introducing American audiences to this unclassifiable author. It contained many of the traits that mark Murakami's novels: a solitary male protagonist who drifts just outside society; first-person narration; and philosophical passages nestled within outlandish, unconventional plots. An admiring New York Times Book Review called Murakami a "mythmaker for the millennium."

The author's commercial breakthrough in Japan had come with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987, which sold two million copies. The story of a man who becomes involved with his best friend's girlfriend after the friend's suicide, it stands alone as the author's most straightforward, realistic work. Murakami acknowledges the book's impact on his career, and stands behind it; but he is also aware that it represented a departure from the surreal books that had made him a "cult" author with a modest following. "After Norwegian Wood, I have not written any purely realistic novels," Murakami said in a 2001 publisher's interview, "and have no intention of writing any more at this time."

Murakami's return to surrealism with Dance Dance Dance (the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase), however, did not slow his career growth. Further translations of his work and publication of his stories in the New Yorker assured a growing following in the States, where his best known (and, to some, his best) work is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which appeared here in 1997. It's a masterful work that draws together all of the themes Murakami had been exploring in his fiction up until then: modern ennui, the unpredictability of relationships, a haunting backdrop of Japanese history.

In addition to his sublime and profoundly strange short stories and novels (Sputnik Sweetheart; Kafka on the Shore; Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, etc.), Murakami has made occasional forays into nonfiction -- most notably with Underground, a compilation of interviews with victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and his 2008 memoir of the New York City Marathon, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He has also translated several works by American authors into Japanese, including title by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, and John Irving.

Good To Know

Murakami owned a small jazz bar in Tokyo for seven years after college, an experience that he enjoyed and called upon when creating the main character of South of the Border, West of the Sun, who also owns a Tokyo jazz bar.

Murakami's first three novels, -- Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase -- comprise The Trilogy of the Rat.

His most often cited influences are Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan.

Murakami told an interviewer from Publishers Weekly in 1991 that he considers his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. The translations were published, but are not available in the U.S. Third novel A Wild Sheep Chase was "the first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."

Daniel Handler, aka children's author Lemony Snicket, is a vocal fan of Murakami's who once wrote a review/paean to the author in the Village Voice entitled "I Love Murakami." "Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction," he wrote. "....The novels aren't afraid to pull tricks usually banned from serious fiction: They are suspenseful, corny, spooky, and hilarious; they're airplane reading, but when you're through you spend the rest of the flight, the rest of the month, rethinking life."

Murakami has taught at Princeton University, where he wrote most of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Tufts University. The twin disasters of a gas attack on the Tokyo subway and the Kobe earthquake in 1995 drew the author back to Japan from the United States.

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    1. Hometown:
      Tokyo, Japan
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kyoto, Japan
    1. Education:
      Waseda University, 1973
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

1
Elevator, Silence, Overweight
 

The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent. There was no telling for sure: it was so slow that all sense of direction simply vanished. It could have been going down for all I knew, or maybe it wasn’t moving at all. But let’s just assume it was going up. Merely a guess. Maybe I’d gone up twelve stories, then down three. Maybe I’d circled the globe. How would I know?

Every last thing about this elevator was worlds apart from the cheap die-cut job in my apartment building, scarcely one notch up the evolutionary scale from a well bucket. You’d never believe the two pieces of machinery had the same name and the same purpose. The two were pushing the outer limits conceivable as elevators.

First of all, consider the space. This elevator was so spacious it could have served as an office. Put in a desk, add a cabinet and a locker, throw in a kitchenette, and you’d still have room to spare. You might even squeeze in three camels and a mid-range palm tree while you were at it. Second, there was the cleanliness. Antiseptic as a brand-new coffin. The walls and ceiling were absolutely spotless polished stainless steel, the floor immaculately carpeted in a handsome moss-green. Third, it was dead silent. There wasn’t a sound—literally not one sound—from the moment I stepped inside and the doors slid shut. Deep rivers run quiet.

Another thing, most of the gadgets an elevator is supposed to have were missing. Where, for example, was the panel with all the buttons and switches? No floor numbers to press, no DOOR OPEN and DOOR CLOSE, no EMERGENCY STOP. Nothing whatsoever. All of which made me feel utterly defenseless. And it wasn’t just no buttons; it was no indication of advancing floor, no posted capacity or warning, not even a manufacturer’s nameplate. Forget about trying to locate an emergency exit. Here I was, sealed in. No way this elevator could have gotten fire department approval. There are norms for elevators after all.

Staring at these four blank stainless-steel walls, I recalled one of Houdini’s great escapes I’d seen in a movie. He’s tied up in how many ropes and chains, stuffed into a big trunk, which is wound fast with another thick chain and sent hurtling, the whole lot, over Niagara Falls. Or maybe it was an icy dip in the Arctic Ocean. Given that I wasn’t all tied up, I was doing okay; insofar as I wasn’t clued in on the trick, Houdini was one up on me.

Talk about not clued in, I didn’t even know if I was moving or standing still.

I ventured a cough, but it didn’t echo anything like a cough. It seemed flat, like clay thrown against a slick concrete wall. I could hardly believe that dull thud issued from my own body. I tried coughing one more time. The result was the same. So much for coughing.

I stood in that hermetically sealed vault for what seemed an eternity. The doors showed no sign of ever opening. Stationary in unending silence, a still life: Man in Elevator.

I started to get nervous. What if the machinery had malfunctioned? Or suppose the elevator operator—assuming there was one in the building—forgot I was here in this box? People have lost track of me before.

I strained to hear something, anything, but no sound reached my ears. I pressed my ear against the stainless-steel wall. Sure enough, not a sound. All I managed was to leave an outline of my ear on the cold metal. The elevator was made, apparently, of a miracle alloy that absorbed all noise. I tried whistling Danny Boy, but it came out like a dog wheezing with asthma.

There was little left to do but lean up against a wall and count the change in my pockets. For someone in my profession, knowing how to kill time is as important a method of training as gripping rubber balls is for a boxer. Although, in any strict sense, it’s not killing time at all. For only through assiduous repetition is it possible to redistribute skewed tendencies.

I always come prepared with pockets full of loose change. In my right pocket I keep one-hundred- and five-hundred-yen coins, in my left fifties and tens. One-yen and five-yen coins I carry in a back pocket, but as a rule these don’t enter into the count. What I do is thrust my hands simultaneously into both pockets, the right hand tallying the hundreds and five-hundreds in tandem with the left hand adding up the fifties and tens.

It’s hard for those who’ve never attempted the procedure to grasp what it is to calculate this way, and admittedly it is tricky at first. The right brain and the left brain each keep separate tabs, which are then brought together like two halves of a split watermelon. No easy task until you get the hang of it.

Whether or not I really do put the right and left sides of my brain to separate accounts, I honestly can’t say. A specialist in neurophysiology might have insights to offer on the matter. I’m no neurophysiologist, however. All I know is that when I’m actually in the midst of counting, I feel like I’m using the right side and left side of my brain differently. And when I’m through counting, it seems the fatigue that sets in is qualitatively quite distinct from what comes with normal counting. For convenience sake, I think of it as right-brain-totals-right-pocket, left-brain-totals-left-pocket.

On the whole, I think of myself as one of those people who take a convenience-sake view of prevailing world conditions, events, existence in general. Not that I’m such a blasé, convenience-sake sort of guy—although I do have tendencies in that direction—but because more often than not I’ve observed that convenient approximations bring you closest to comprehending the true nature of things.

For instance, supposing that the planet earth were not a sphere but a gigantic coffee table, how much difference in everyday life would that make? Granted, this is a pretty farfetched example; you can’t rearrange facts of life so freely. Still, picturing the planet earth, for convenience sake, as a gigantic coffee table does in fact help clear away the clutter—those practically pointless contingencies such as gravity and the international dateline and the equator, those nagging details that arise from the spherical view. I mean, for a guy leading a perfectly ordinary existence, how many times in the course of a lifetime would the equator be a significant factor?

But to return to the matter at hand—or rather, hands, the right and the left each going about its own separate business—it is by no means easy to keep running parallel counts. Even for me, to get it down took the longest time. But once you do, once you’ve gotten the knack, it’s not something you lose. Like riding a bike or swimming. Which isn’t to say you can’t always use a little more practice. Repetition can improve your technique and refine your style. If for no other reason than this, I always keep my hands busy.

This time I had three five-hundred-yen coins and eighteen hundreds in the one pocket, and seven fifties and sixteen tens in the other. Making a grand total of three-thousand eight-hundred-ten yen. Calculations like this are no trouble at all. Simpler than counting the fingers on my hands. Satisfied, I leaned back against the stainless-steel wall and looked straight ahead at the doors. Which were still not opening.

What could be taking so long? I tentatively wrote off both the equipment-malfunction theory and the forgotten-by-operator theory. Neither very realistic. This was not to say that equipment malfunction or operator negligence couldn’t realistically occur. On the contrary, I know for a fact that such accidents are all too common in the real world. What I mean to say is that in a highly exceptional reality—this ridiculously slick elevator a case in point—the non-exceptional can, for convenience sake, be written off as paradoxically exceptional. Could any human being capable of designing this Tom Swift elevator fail to keep the machinery in working order or forget the proper procedures once a visitor stepped inside?

The answer was obvious. No.

Never happen.

Not after they had been so meticulous up to that point. They’d seen to minute details, measuring each step I’d taken virtually to the millimeter. I’d been stopped by two guards at the entrance to the building, asked whom I was there to see, matched against a visitors’ list, made to produce my driver’s license, logged into a central computer for verification, after which I was summarily pushed into this elevator. You don’t get this much going over when you visit the Bank of Japan. It was unthinkable that they, having done all that, should slip up now.

The only possibility was that they had intentionally placed me in this particular situation. They wanted the elevator’s motions to be opaque to me. They wanted the elevator to move so slowly I wouldn’t be able to tell if it were going up or down. They were probably watching me with a hidden TV camera now.

To ward off the boredom, I thought about searching for the camera lens. But on second thought, what would I have to gain if I found it? That would alert them, they’d halt the elevator, and I’d be even later for my appointed hour.

So I decided to do nothing. I was here in proper accordance with my duties. No need to worry, no cause for alarm.

I leaned against the elevator wall, thrust my hands in my pockets, and once more counted my change. Three-thousand seven-hundred-fifty yen. Nothing to it. Done in a flash.

Three-thousand seven-hundred-fifty yen?

Something was wrong.

I’d made a mistake somewhere.

My palms began to sweat. In three years of counting, never once had I screwed up. This was a bad sign.

I shut my eyes and made my right brain and left brain a blank, in a way you might clean your glasses. Then withdrawing both hands from my pockets, I spread my fingers to dry the sweat. Like Henry Fonda in Warlock, where he steels himself before a gunfight.

With palms and fingers completely dry, both hands dived into my pockets to do a third count. If the third sum corresponded to either of the other sums I’d feel better. Everybody makes mistakes. Under the peculiar conditions I found myself, I may have been anxious, not to mention a little overconfident. That was my first mistake. Anyway, an accurate recount was all I needed to remedy the situation, to put things right.

But before I could take the matter in hand, the elevator doors opened. No warning, no sound, they just slid open to either side. I was concentrating so hard on the critical recount that I didn’t even notice. Or more precisely, my eyes had seen the opening doors, but I didn’t fully grasp the significance of the event. Of course, the doors’ opening meant the linking of two spaces previously denied accessible continuity by means of those very doors. And at the same time, it meant the elevator had reached its destination.

I turned my attention to what lay beyond the doors. There was a corridor and in the corridor stood a woman. A young woman, turned out in a pink suit, wearing pink high heels. The suit was coutured of a polished material, her face equally polished. The woman considered my presence, then nodded succinctly. “Come this way,” she seemed to indicate. I gave up all hope of that recount, and removing my hands from my pockets, I exited the elevator. Whereupon the elevator doors closed behind me as if they’d been waiting for me to leave.

Standing there in the corridor, I took a good look around, but I encountered no hint of the nature of my current circumstances. I did seem to be in an interior passage of a building, but any school kid could have told you as much.

The interior was gloomy, featureless. Like the elevator. Quality materials throughout; no sign of wear. Marble floors buffed to a high luster; the walls a toasted off-white, like the muffins I eat for breakfast. Along either side of the corridor were tall wooden doors, each affixed with metal room numbers, but out of order. <936> was next to <1213> next to <26>. Something was screwy. Nobody numbers rooms like that.

The young woman hardly spoke. “This way, please,” was all she told me, but it was more her lips forming the words than speaking, because no sound came out. Having taken two months of lipreading since starting this line of work, I had no problem understanding what she said. Still, I thought there was something wrong with my ears. After the dead silence of the elevator, the flattened coughs and dessicated whistling, I had to be losing my hearing.

So I coughed. It sounded normal. I regained some confidence in my hearing. Nothing’s happened to my ears. The problem must be with the woman’s mouth.

I walked behind her. The clicks of her pointy high heels echoed down the empty corridor like an afternoon at the quarry. Her full, stockinged legs reflected clearly in the marble.

The woman was on the chubby side. Young and beautiful and all that went with it, but chubby. Now a young, beautiful woman who is, shall we say, plump, seems a bit off. Walking behind her, I fixated on her body.

Around young, beautiful, fat women, I am generally thrown into confusion. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because an image of their dietary habits naturally congeals in my mind. When I see a goodly sized woman, I have visions of her mopping up that last drop of cream sauce with bread, wolfing down that final sprig of watercress garnish from her plate. And once that happens, it’s like acid corroding metal: scenes of her eating spread through my head and I lose control.

Your plain fat woman is fine. Fat women are like clouds in the sky. They’re just floating there, nothing to do with me. But your young, beautiful, fat woman is another story. I am demanded to assume a posture toward her. I could end up sleeping with her. That is probably where all the confusion comes in.

Which is not to say that I have anything against fat women. Confusion and repulsion are two different things. I’ve slept with fat women before and on the whole the experience wasn’t bad. If your confusion leads you in the right direction, the results can be uncommonly rewarding. But of course, things don’t always take the right course. Sex is an extremely subtle undertaking, unlike going to the department store on Sunday to buy a thermos. Even among young, beautiful, fat women, there are distinctions to be made. Fleshed out one way, they’ll lead you in the right direction; fleshed out another way, they’ll leave you lost, trivial, confused.

In this sense, sleeping with fat women can be a challenge. There must be as many paths of human fat as there are ways of human death.
 

This was pretty much what I was thinking as I walked down the corridor behind this young, beautiful, fat woman.

A white scarf swirled around the collar of her chic pink suit. From the fullness of her earlobes dangled square gold earrings, glinting with every step she took. Actually, she moved quite lightly for her weight. She may have strapped herself into a girdle or other paraphernalia for maximum visual effect, but that didn’t alter the fact that her wiggle was tight and cute. In fact, it turned me on. She was my kind of chubby.

Now I’m not trying to make excuses, but I don’t get turned on by that many women. If anything, I think of myself as more the non-turn-on type. So when I do get turned on, I don’t trust it; I have to investigate the source.

I scooted up next to her and apologized for being eight or nine minutes late for the appointment. “I had no idea the entrance procedures would take so long,” I said. “And then the elevator was so slow. I was ten minutes early when I got to the building.”

She gave me a brisk I-know sort of nod. A hint of eau de cologne drifted from her neckline. A scent reminiscent of standing in a melon patch on a summer’s morn. It put me in a funny frame of mind. A nostalgic yet impossible pastiche of sentiments, as if two wholly unrelated memories had threaded together in an unknown recess. Feelings like this sometimes come over me. And most often due to specific scents.

“Long corridor, eh?” I tried to break the ice. She glanced at me, but kept walking. I guessed she was twenty or twenty-one. Well-defined features, broad forehead, clear complexion.

It was then that she said, “Proust.”

Or more precisely, she didn’t pronounce the word “Proust,” but simply moved her lips to form what ought to have been “Proust.” I had yet to hear a genuine peep out of her. It was as if she were talking to me from the far side of a thick sheet of glass.

Proust?

Marcel Proust?” I asked her.

She gave me a look. Then she repeated, “Proust.” I gave up on the effort and fell back in line behind her, trying for the life of me to come up with other lip movements that corresponded to “Proust.” Truest? . . . Brew whist? . . . Blue is it? . . . One after the other, quietly to myself, I pronounced strings of meaningless syllables, but none seemed to match. I could only conclude that she had indeed said, “Proust”. But what I couldn’t figure was, what was the connection between this long corridor and Marcel Proust?

Perhaps she’d cited Marcel Proust as a metaphor for the length of the corridor. Yet, supposing that were the case, wasn’t it a trifle flighty—not to say inconsiderate—as a choice of expression? Now if she’d cited this long corridor as a metaphor for the works of Marcel Proust, that much I could accept. But the reverse was bizarre.

A corridor as long as Marcel Proust?

Whatever, I kept following her down that long corridor. Truly, a long corridor. Turning corners, going up and down short flights of stairs, we must have walked five or six ordinary buildings’ worth. We were walking around and around, like in an Escher print. But walk as we might, the surroundings never seemed to change. Marble floors, muffin-white walls, wooden doors with random room numbers. Stainless-steel door knobs. Not a window in sight. And through it all, the same staccato rhythm of her heels, followed by the melted rubber gumminess of my jogging shoes.

Suddenly she pulled to a halt. I was now so tuned in to the sound of my jogging shoes that I walked right into her backside. It was wonderfully cushioning, like a firm rain cloud. Her neck effused that melon eau de cologne. She was tipping forward from the force of my impact, so I grabbed her shoulders to pull her back upright.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I was somewhere else in my thoughts.”

The chubby young woman blushed. I couldn’t say for sure, but she didn’t seem at all bothered. “Tozwn’sta,” she said with a trace of a smile. Then she shrugged her shoulders and added, “Sela.” She didn’t actually say that, but need I repeat, her lips formed the words.

Tozum’sta?” I pronounced to myself. “Sela?

Sela,” she said with conviction.

Turkish perhaps? Problem was, I’d never heard a word of Turkish. I was so flustered, I decided to forget about holding a conversation with her. Lipreading is very delicate business and not something you can hope to master in two months of adult education classes.

She produced a lozenge-shaped electronic key from her suit pocket and inserted it horizontally, just so, into the slot of the door bearing the number <728>. It unlocked with a click. Smooth.

She opened the door, then turned and bid me, “Saum’te, sela.”

Which, of course, is exactly what I did.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 72 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 18, 2011

    My favorite Murakami book

    Although Windup Bird Chronicles is better known, I enjoyed this book much more. There are parallel stories here, told by story-tellers with different voices (or is it one story-teller?). Uncertainty here is well worth the mental effort to work things out. If you're confused at first, press on! This is a quick read, and ultimately, a satisfying one.

    I would recommend any of Murakami's books. I understand there is another to be released quite soon. I can hardly wait!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Another great Murakami read

    The characters were well developed, mysterious and comical at times. I loved how the imagery in both story lines mimicked each other. Only thing that held me back from 5/5 was the somewhat predictable revelation of why the 2 worlds exist.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

    Intoxicating

    This book reads like an episode of Lost, at once intelectually fascinating as well as deeply moving. I feel like i need another read throgh to fully appreciate and untangle-if such a thing is even possible-the two overlapping stoies. Despite the underlyig complexity, this book is the most accesible Murakami i have read (with After Dark and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle being the othrr books i have read so far).

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Great intro to Murakami

    Wierd and compelling

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Wow!

    I chose this book for a school project because I had been wanting to read something by Haruki Murakami. It is quite amazing! Murakami must have a very unique imagination. I loved his writing style and the characters that he created. I would definetely recommend this book, however it is not for the faint of heart. To say it plainly, it is a little odd, weird, crazy at times. But I like that. :) Anyways, I look forward to reading more of his books as he is a very talented writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Characters

    This book is a quick read that keeps the reader interested throughout the book. There are two stories taking place (alternating chapters) which merge together at the end. I loved the characters in this book. They are all unique, interesting, and important. Good book

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A GREAT book from Haruki Murakami.

    I really enjoyed reading HARD-BOILED WONDERLAND AND THE END OF THE WORLD. This story was very inventive. The dream library is definatly a place I would like to check out; although I would not want my eyes changed. I found the protagonist to be a person I could relate to. He was a man caught up in a world that he had no control of. And like all puppets, he wanted to know the future and where he fitted into it. His 'present' being what it was that created that thirst. I highly recommend this book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2000

    Hard Boiled Wonderland is pure genius

    Murakami's Hard Boiled Wonderland is the best book that I have ever read.The multiple themes blend together with such wit.Murakami's writing skill is on a higher level.The book leaves you in suspense 24-7.I was always looking forward to seeing what was going to happen next in the book.It is hard to describe the feeling that the book gives you.All I can say is buy the book,I promise you will not be disapointed.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    One of my favorites!

    One of my favorites!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2011

    Great Contemporary Japanese Fiction

    Haruki Murakami is easily one of my favorite authors, and this particular book is, in my eyes, one of his best works. Two tales run beside each other throughout the book, seemingly unrelated until a climactic finale. It is a realistic fiction story with a fantastic, paranormal twist. It is a book that you should read more than once if you intend to catch all of the little details along the way. If you're looking for somethooo

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2010

    Great book, confusing organization

    This book is amazing, the characters the plot, the parallelism between both stories. Yet the writing style made me read it incorrectly at first being so engrossed by the first chapter I read every other chapter to finish "Hard Boiled Wonderland" then went back and read "End of the World". But afterwards I read both stories side by side and it shows so many more levels of the story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Gripping and Original

    In Murakami's mysterious world of "Calcutecs" and "Symeotics" one man finds himself stuck in the middle of an information war. What he doesn't know or understand is that the end of the world is near and he is the key.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2006

    Marvelous Insanity

    The best way to describe this novel is marvelous insanity. At first nothing seems to fit together, but as the story progresses the two simultaneous plots meet seamlessly. I enjoyed every letter of it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2006

    one of murakami's best

    i've read most of murakami's works and this one is the most seamless, perfectly packaged novel from beggining to end. i felt that HBW and ETW was a bit different from all of Murakami's other novels. Murakami generally writes about metaphysical dimensions, and abstract/ out of reach 'worlds'. This novel was the only one where that world was more clearly defined and explained in detail. It was like seeing it in color, as compared to the dreamlike and greyish settings visited in other novels. this isnt a bad thing at all. it gives the story a more definition. furthermore, HBW and ETW one of murakami's more action packed stories. great great book. highly recommended

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2006

    Fabulous

    I loved this book. I went insane trying to figure out how the two different stories were connected. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read something interesting and different.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    A wonderful read

    This book is fantastic. It is tied for first place with 'Kafka on the Shore' for favorite Murakami book of mine. It was ambitious and imaginative. Murakami tells two stories at once, of two different worlds, that he ties wonderfully together at the end, AND the beginning. It doesn't make sense yet, read it and it will.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2005

    A great read

    Having read many of Murakami's books, I have to say that Hard Boiled is one of the best, topped only by the 'Wind Up Bird'. I picked it up after a hiatus of reading due to exams and as a Murakami fix before the new book hit stores, and I found it truly amazing. I cannot wait for 'Kafka' and hope that it will be able to match the writing and plot of 'Hard Boiled'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2004

    Shadows and Simulacrum

    This book is structurally and thematically more complex than anything else he's written to date(except maybe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). HBW+ETW is enjoyable on multiple levels, though I found that I did not fully appreciate the conclusion until the third read (probably a failure on my part, though I've heard that he rewrote it several times before deciding on the current conclusion). Jean Baudrillard is a theorist whose work I found makes for an interesting and appropriate companion to this title, but if you're not into lit. theory the genius of this book is that it's still accessible. Danny Boy, paperclips, unicorns, and genius . . .

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2004

    Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the World

    I have read almost all of Murakami's work. This book keeps you in suspence. As you are reading it, you look forward to the turning point when the two stories will merge. Great!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    Best Effing Book I Have Ever Read

    To Read Is To Know.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 72 Customer Reviews

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