What then remains, but that we still should cry
For being born, or, being born to die?
I finally finished Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World last night after having begun it in January. Admittedly it took me at least 4 times of rereading the first few chapters and I even attempted going the audiobook route. While at first it was hard to get into the novel, by the end I was completely enthralled and I was biting my nails to see if the end would match my hope. I’m not really certain if I am supposed to like the ending but I did, immensely, because I felt some sort of agreement to the end decision by the character.
The novel alternates between two different worlds that for the most part seem entirely unconnected. One takes place in a futuristic sort of place and the other in an isolated island of sorts that is completely enclosed to the reality outside it. The former seems to be the main story while the latter was actually my preferred. I enjoyed the strange ‘basic’ island in which there was no music, no enjoyment, but also no pain, no struggle. In many ways this second world was someone’s version of a stripped down Utopian society.
I’m not sure I have much of note to say about the futuristic world because it was just the driver for moving the plot along and connecting the two worlds together. The connection comes very late in the novel so for some, might be a surprise.
Yet whilst with sorrow here we live opprest,
What life is best?
The two quotes above come from Francis Bacon’s poem, “Life.” I found the first quote scribbled on a scrap piece of paper which prompted me to read the poem again. It presents a similar idea as the novel in my interpretation of it.
Only where there is disillusionment and depression and sorrow does happiness arise; without the despair of loss, there is no hope.
― Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
While this is supposed to be a convincing reason to live, I’m not (convinced). I’m not so sure happiness is worth the trade. I don’t value happiness all that highly to be willing to accept disillusionment, depression, sorrow, despair. Those feel worse than happiness feels good. Or otherwise I have not known such happiness.
Most human activities are predicated on the assumption that life goes on. If you take that premise away, what is there left?”
― Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
It’s true. I feel like the driver for many of my activities depend on the fact that I will still be here tomorrow. I do today what I must only because otherwise I’d be fucking over my tomorrow. It’s not a fantastic way to live, but it does force my hand to act rather than remain inert. But if there were no tomorrow, I feel an alternative is an eternity within our minds with no timeline: a self-containing bubble where nothing you do effects anything else. You just are, in existence. I’ve mentioned many times that that is my ideal. To just be. And nothing more.
Time is too conceptual. Not that it stops us from filling it in. So much so, we can’t even tell whether our experiences belong to time or to the world of physical things.
Honestly so much of this novel is quotable. I’m not even sure where to begin or how many quotes to memorialize in this post.
Now for a good twelve-hour sleep, I told myself. Twelve solid hours. Let birds sing, let people go to work. Somewhere out there, a volcano might blow, Israeli commandos might decimate a Palestinian village. I couldn’t stop it. I was going to sleep.
– – –
But like a boat with a twisted rudder, I kept coming back to the same place. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was myself, waiting on the shore for me to return.
Was that so depressing?
Who knows? Maybe that was ‘despair.’ What Turgenev called ‘disillusionment.’ Or Dostoyevsky, ‘hell.’ Or Somerset Maugham, ‘reality.’ Whatever the label, I figured it was me.
– – –
When microorganisms die, they make oil; when huge timbers fall, they make coal. But everything here was pure, unadulterated rubbish that didn’t make anything.
– – –
And now I feel I must begin a new post just for the cherry on top of the novel. The moment I was waiting for, rooting for, but that perhaps is the ultimate self-made illusion.