LITERATURE: Hard-Boiled Wonderland – At Long Last

Finally, I’ve reached a concept in the book that really struck me. This dialog between the narrator and his shadow, the shadow slowly dying, still planning its escape, yet anxious to relay what he’s learned since separated from the narrator:

“Just now you spoke of the Town’s perfection. Sure, the people here–the Gatekeeper aside–don’t hurt anyone. No one hurts each other, no one has wants. All are contented and at peace. Why is that? It’s because they have no mind.”

“That much I know too well,” I say.

“It is by relinquishing their mind that the Townfolk lose time; their awareness becomes a clean slate of eternity. As I said, no one grows old or dies. All that’s required is that you strip away the shadow that is the grounding of the self and watch it die. Once your shadow dies, you haven’t a problem in the world. You need only to skim off the discharges of mind that rise each day.”

“Skim off?”

I’ll come back to that later. First, about the mind. You tell me there is no fighting or hatred or desire in the Town. That is a beautiful dream, and I do want your happiness. But the absence of fighting or hatred or desire also means the opposites do not exist either. No joy, no communion, no love. Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope.” (p. 334)

After all the oddness the two worlds have revealed as Murakami has drawn them (I at first thought they were parallel, now feel they are more past and future, as indicated by the tense structure as well), it is this lesson or possibility that he has brought us to: losing one’s self into the will of the community and secondly, one extreme demands its opposite, or otherwise normalcy involves a type of apathy.

This last thought reminds me instantly of the need for evil to know good, for sadness to have happiness, etc. that is a topic of importance in The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. It is based on the theory that if we have not experienced sadness, for example, then we could not comprehend its opposite of happiness because there would be no way to gauge the contrast. I find as I grow older I am more convinced of this personally. Traumatic events of the past hold their own in my mind until something worse might happen; same thing with events or people who delight me. Age hones the senses rather than dulling them, I think. And to shut oneself off from the world in order to protect oneself, to attempt to live in peace and harmony, tends instead, to numb one to all feelings, good or bad, frightening or comforting.

I’m getting towards the last 50 pages here, and I’m anxious now to see how Murakami fuses his two worlds. He has already made the narrator aware in the past that he will die and move onto another world, but as we see the present, the shadow here is speaking of escape before it itself dies, and is begging the narrator to leave with it.

And this is neat; within the expected action and resolution crops up another conflict: his feelings towards the Librarian.

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