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Beyond the Sentence: Surrealism in Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World

When I read Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World, I was struck by the way the story unfolds human imagination and applies it ironically to the story's reality. The book provides a nonsensical story and delivers complex setting as well as characters. Keep in mind that it is a fantastical science fiction, which gives itself a permission to go as far out of logical boundaries as possible. I have always loved this kind of book—a literary work that suggests a complicated narration. Besides conveying a story, it also invites the readers, including myself, to dig into its meanings. I would come across a page, stop reading, and think about the part that I encountered for quite some time. I did not read only to know about the story, but also about what it was trying to tell me beyond the door of written sentences.


I came to understand that this literary work brings the idea of surrealism into life. To give you a big picture about surrealism, according to Freud, surrealism can be defined as an attempt to bridge reality and the imagination. Surrealists seek to overcome the contradictions of the conscious and unconscious minds by creating bizarre stories full of juxtapositions. Surrealists’ works tend to be strange and shocking, and so is this Murakami’s book. Its plot revolves around dreams, tautologies, conscious mind, and cognitive system. Rendering these ideas, the book is then presented as a complex wit that enforces the readers to think out of their comfortable zone. Instead of just telling about a detective and adventurous story, it inserts imaginative nonsense to the body of the narration. One thing is to be underlined: although imaginative, it is based on science and concrete philosophy.

Murakami applies surrealism by focusing on characters, discovery, and imagery in order to compel meanings—instead of relying on plot. I must say that this book's plot is linear. However, it does not have clear resolutions to the conflicts presented in the story. There is no resolution, for example, to the attack of INKlings towards the professor’s research experiment. The characters run away from them, but do not appear as if they seek a way to stop them. In the end, there is also no clear representation of how the story ends—whether the calcutec dies and the dreamreader enters eternity. The readers are served with a plot that they have to solve by analyzing the book’s meanings by themselves. Only by going through leaps in thinking, abstract ideas, and nonlinear timelines, the readers will be able to suspect how things finally come to an end. This effort can be classified as a psychic automatism that encourages the readers to make use of their actual functioning of thought. Therefore, I would say that this book has a two-ways interaction with its readers—it does not only talk to them, but also invites them to think with it in order to solve the story. Only by thinking with the book, the readers will be able to grasp what the book is trying to say.
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