[Some spoiler here]
I was born by the sea. I’d go to the beach the morning after a typhoon and find all sorts of things that the waves had tossed up. There’d be bottles and the wooden geta and hats and cases of glasses, tables and chairs, things from nowhere near the water. I liked going near the water. I liked combing through the stuff, so i was always waiting for the next typhoon.
The strange thing is, everything washed up from the sea was purified. Useless junk, but absolutely clean. There wasn’t a dirty thing. The sea is special in that way. When i look back over my life so far, i see all that junk on the beach. Its how my life has always been. Gathering up the junk, sorting through it, and then casting it off somewhere else. All for no purpose, leaving it to wash away again.
This is all my life. I merely go from one beach to another. Sure i remember the things that happen in between, but that’s all. I never tie them together. They’re so many things clean but useless.
We live our lives seeing and understanding things as they come. We all seek them out. We make our choices, develop our tastes, believe things as we understand them, define our own paths and stroll on them. In all we build a world of our own inside our mind. And that world inhibits everything we cherish. We always wish to live in such a world. Not only we wish but try also.
While we picked the elements of our dream world we also brushed across a plethora of other things. Things we hated. Things we discarded. Things we were not sure about. Things we were sure about but somehow they never fitted in. Things that appealed initially but waned as we moved on. Things that were imposed on us. All those things were everything that one can consider as lumen possibilities of human existence. Murakami called all these things shadows. And these are the things that marred the existence of our dream world. These shadows are the junk in the quoted passage above.
Inability to encompass the inexhaustible variety of life it all leads to bewilderment and exasperation. Then we strive and struggle for more and more knowledge and understanding to chunk out inconsistencies and to bridge the gaps of our mind. Because that’s where we put the blame, our knowledge and understanding, and try to better it. Though our knowledge keeps on increasing but understanding suffers at times as shadows never leave us. Either consciously or subconsciously they stay and their existence always keeps us pushing and striving for more.
This is the thought on which Murakami draws the book towards the end.
The protagonist of the story is a Calcutec who loves to cook, read and drink(though he’s not as a drunkard) . He is a sharp observer but is quite indifferent to the world around him and is satisfied in his solitude.
The story is a science fiction blended with the philosophy of how we understand our understanding of mind. The novel is divided into two storylines which move parallel to each other in alternating chapters. Though both the stories are entirely different but one instinctively knows that they will merge in the end. As the name suggest one story is about a wonderland and other that proceeds towards the end of the world. While ‘End of the world ’ story is a science fiction embedded with concepts like double consciousness, human data encryption methods with human subconsciousness as an encryption key, sound-suppressing devices, history talking bones etc, it inevitably leads towards the end of world for the narrator which, though not explicitly stated, is the ‘Hard boiled wonderland’.
‘Hard Boiled Wonderland’ on the surface is a very subtly narrated dream like story. One is simply awestruck by the depth and imagination of it. It presents thought on the self inflicted struggle of a thinking man, though it never touches it explicitly and i guess that’s the best part of the story. A strive for knowledge and understanding which becomes a life long drive, never halting to enjoy the secrets one may have unearthed along the way. Though this drive is the lifeline of a man but it does contains a pain, a struggle , a strive in it which is the ‘Shadow’ that Murakami points out.
As he says :
There’s no reason why everyone has to listen to records in hi-fi. Having violin on the left and bass on the right doesn’t make the music more profound. Its just a more complicated way of simulating a bored imagination
No, the story is not just abt the Shadow but is whole lot more than it. Apart from the philosophy of working of the mind, the “Wonderland Story” is also a satire on the world of today and the irony is too much profound because of the calm way of the narration and the setting of the story.
There are characters like the Colonel, a Gatekeeper, Dreamreaders and there’s a Wall, a River, The Woods and the golden haired Beasts. And they all reside idiosyncratically in a town enclosed inside the Wall. The town and the things inside are actually a simple, calm yet crude deep layered caricature of the world we inhibit.
A meandering tangentiality encompasses the whole story giving it a surreal quality. It all looks lull, only that we are not sure if the storm has passed or is on its way.
I completed the book about a week back but am still awed by its conception.
Go read it and don’t forget to thank me for it.
 The cover of the book shows a man coiled inside with a shadow below him. The shadow is shown lying on the floor (or we can say The World). And the World (floor) is shown cutting through the man. The inward coiling of the man can be seen as the alienation of his from the world. In the coiled stance of his body his head is also curled inside as if he’s shunning himself from any view of the travesty the world presents.