Space Break

Chapter 27 “Encyclopedia Wand, Immortality, Paperclips” may be the shortest Hard-boiled Wonderland chapter in the entire book. In it, the Professor explains what exactly is happening in Watashi’s head and why it means he’ll be expelled from reality into an eternal version of the End of the World.

There are very few changes at all, just two small lines added by Birnbaum (or his editor) to help make a line of dialogue and an instance of “stage directions” (“I said nothing.”) feel more natural in English.

To be honest, the most interesting addition is a sort of non-addition: BOHE adds a space break for dramatic pause on page 286 where there is none in Japanese. This isn’t the first instance of this technique. Here’s what the passage looks like in Japanese:

「…しかし今となっては選り好みはできんようになった。あんたが不死の世界をまぬがれる手はひとつしかないです」

「どんな手ですか?」

「今すぐ死ぬことです」と博士は事務的な口調で言った。「ジャンクションAが結線する前に死んでしまうのです。そうすれば何も残らない」

深い沈黙が洞窟の中を支配した。博士が咳払いし、太った娘がため息をつき、私はウィスキーを出して飲んだ。誰もひとことも口をきかなかった。

「それは……どんな世界なんですか?」と私は博士にたずねてみた。「その不死の正解のことです」(412)

And in English:

“…But if you act now, you can choose, if choice is what you want. There’s on last hand you can play.”

“And what might that be?”

“You can die right now,” said the Professor, very business-like. “Before Junction A links up, just check out. That leaves nothing.”

A profound silence fell over us. The Professor coughed, the chubby girl sighed, I look a slug of whiskey. No one said a word.

***

“That…uh, world…what is it like?” I brought myself to voice the question. “That immortal world?” (285-286)

As you can see in the Japanese version, there’s no dramatic pause other than what the narration allows. (Note: There are no asterisks in the English version; I’ve added them to represent the extended space break in the translation.) Birnbaum’s version has minor adjustments, notably in the first paragraph which alters the tone slightly, but I think the space break does more work. It’s a nice effect.

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