Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

by Haruki Murakami

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World tells two separate but related stories in quite different styles. The “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” chapters resemble the style of American hard-boiled detective fiction, though in a science-fiction setting. The narrator finds himself caught up in a conflict between the Calcutecs, who work for the quasi-governmental System, and the Semiotecs, criminals who work for the Factory. Calcutecs provide and protect information, while the Semiotecs, many of whom are discredited Calcutecs, steal data and sell it on the black market. The narrator works for a Calcutec scientist and becomes friends with the scientist’s assistant, his adolescent granddaughter. His job is to recode numbers by passing them from his right brain to his left brain.

The protagonist of the “End of the World” chapters finds himself in “the Town,” which is surrounded by an ominous forest. These allegorical chapters have a denser, more formal prose, offering more descriptive writing than elsewhere in Murakami’s fiction. With the help of the Librarian, whom he thinks he recognizes, he reads dreams from the skulls of unicorns and becomes the Dreamreader. His counterpart in “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” also has what seems to be a unicorn skull, as well as a relationship with the helpful reference librarian from his local library. This librarian describes libraries as paradises where information is free and no one fights over it. Murakami provides numerous other parallels between the narrators as both halves of his novel seem to be commenting on each other, exploring the same themes from different perspectives.

The scientist wants to prevent the world from falling apart, a...

(The entire section is 706 words.)

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Amitrano, Giorgio. The New Japanese Novel: Popular Culture and Literary Tradition in the Work of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana. Kyto, Japan: Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Scuola di Studi sull’Asia Orientale, 1996.

Cassegrd, Carl. Shock and Naturalization in Contemporary Japanese Literature. Folkestone, England: Global Oriental, 2007.

Gabriel, J. Philip. Spirit Matters: The Transcendent in Modern Japanese Literature. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006.

Lai, Amy Ty. “Memory, Hybridity, and Creative Alliance in Haruki Murakami’s Fiction.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature 40, no. 1 (March, 2007): 163-179.

McInerney, Jay. “Roll Over, Basho: Who Is Japan Reading, and Why.” The New York Times Book Review, September 27, 1992, p. 1.

Murakami, Fuminobu. Postmodern, Feminist, and Postcolonial Currents in Contemporary Japanese Culture: A Reading of Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, Yoshimoto Takaai, and Karatani Kojin. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Rubin, Jay. Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. London: Harvill Press, 2002.

Seats, Michael. Murakami Haruki: The Simulacrum in Contemporary Japanese Culture. Lanham, Md.: Lexington, 2006.

Strecher, Matthew. Dances with Sheep: The Quest for Identity in the Fiction of Murakami Haruki. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2002.

Strecher, Matthew. Haruki Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”: A Reader’s Guide. New York: Continuum, 2002.

Wray, John. “Haruki Murakami: The Art of Fiction CLXXXII.” Paris Review 170 (Summer, 2004): 115-151.