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South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel Paperback – March 14, 2000

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Editorial Reviews Review

In South of the Border, West of the Sun, the arc of an average man's life from childhood to middle age, with its attendant rhythms of success and disappointment, becomes the kind of exquisite literary conundrum that is Haruki Murakami's trademark. The plot is simple: Hajime meets and falls in love with a girl in elementary school, but he loses touch with her when his family moves to another town. He drifts through high school, college, and his 20s, before marrying and settling into a career as a successful bar owner. Then his childhood sweetheart returns, weighed down with secrets:
When I went back into the bar, a glass and ashtray remained where she had been. A couple of lightly crushed cigarette butts were lined up in the ashtray, a faint trace of lipstick on each. I sat down and closed my eyes. Echoes of music faded away, leaving me alone. In that gentle darkness, the rain continued to fall without a sound.
Murakami eschews the fantastic elements that appear in many of his other novels and stories, and readers hoping for a glimpse of the Sheep Man will be disappointed. Yet South of the Border, West of the Sun is as rich and mysterious as anything he has written. It is above all a complex, moving, and honest meditation on the nature of love, distilled into a work with the crystal clarity of a short story. A Nat "King" Cole song, a figure on a crowded street, a face pressed against a car window, a handful of ashes drifting down a river to the sea are woven together into a story that refuses to arrive at a simple conclusion. The classic love triangle may seem like a hackneyed theme for a writer as talented as Murakami, but in his quietly dazzling way, he bends us to his own unique geometry. --Simon Leake --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Romance, accusingly bittersweet but still redemptive, is the theme of this novel written by award-winning novelist Murakami, one of Japan's most popular authors. Two only children who were schoolmates and best friends meet again after a 25-year separation. Hajime is now married, the father of two little girls and a successful owner of two jazz clubs. Shimamoto has also changed; she has become a very beautiful woman. She is always immaculately and expensively dressed, but she will not talk about her life or anything that has happened to her. Nevertheless, Hajime believes that he loves her more than life itself; he is convinced that he could leave his family and his business to be with her. After they spend a night together, a night filled with raw passion, she vanishes. Hajime is distraught. After much soul searching, he begins to put his life back together and discovers that he has become a stronger man, one who realizes that looking back is often necessary in order to move forward.?Janis Williams, Shaker Heights P.L., OH
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 213 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 14, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679767398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679767398
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and the most recent of his many international honors is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J. M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V. S. Naipaul.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Vivek Tejuja on February 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Ever since I first read Murakami starting with
"Sputnik Sweetheart" I am hooked on to everything he
writes. I do not know what he does to me but everytime
I read what he writes - its like a tidal wave lashing
over me and I cannot help it. I love the feeling. I
cherish it for a long long time. South o the Border
begins with a 37-year old narrator Hajimme - the owner
of an upswanky jaz bar in Japan talking about his life
- from where it began to where it is.
A Japanese love story; indeed, a Japanese Casablanca:
it doesn't sound too promising, does it? But ignore
the blurb - they've got to get people to pick it up
after all - and dip a toe into the world of Haruki
Murakami. This is, perhaps, the perfect place to start
for newcomers - no wells; no sheep; no slightly
off-kilter worlds, just a simple, if morally complex
story exquisitely told. It's the prose stye (insert
here a discourse on the art of translation, but the
voice is Murakami) which will seduce you, not the
narrator - he is morally ambivalent, and not in a good
way. In the hands of such an accomplished writer,
however, one is easily drawn in to Hajime's world.
Hajime would like to be a good man, but he has
impulses; impulses which cause him to damage those he
loves. The simple tale revolves around his childhood
sweetheart finding him and endangering everything he's
worked for. So far, so predictable; but the way in
which Murakami teases out Hajime's character, and
faces up to the moral dilemmas without judging his
motives - they are simply laid out for us to observe -
produces a true feeling of uncertainty in the reader,
and compels you through the story wishing that both
outcomes were possible. A cunningly crafted tale,
carried off with thoughtful aplomb, and the ideal
jumping-off point for further exploration of this most
intriguing of authors.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kwok Sing Sit ( on February 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
After the translated works of Birnbaum and Rubin, it is a revelation to see how someone else translate and interpret Murakami's work (this does not mean that the writer of this review doesn't acknowledge the fantastic translations of both translators) . No doubt, Philip Gabriel has done a fantastic job with his translation of this book.
This story is about a middle-age man who in his teenage years finds and then loses the girl, only to meet her again years later. During these years he has hurted a lot of people, including himself. Now, happily married, settled and being a succesfull businessman, it's time to set things straight. Or not? When the woman he once loved (and still loves) enters his bar, things are beginning to change. Will he sacrifice everything for this woman, including his beloved wife and daugthers?
Unlike Dance, Dance, Dance or The Wind Up, this story is more down to earth. Nobody is perfect. Even if you live a happy married life. Unconditionally love doesn't exist, even when you know who you're true love is. Questions always remain and people have to accept this fact. Again Murakami succeeds in letting the readers to think and reconsider again what "life", "love" or "marriage" mean. The answers on these questions remain vague. But isn't that what is all about?
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65 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Larry Dilg on July 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
This romantic novel left me stunned, staring at the ground, picking out patterns, wondering about the consequences of everything I have done in my life. Unlike Jay Gatsby, I've never thought you could repeat the past, but that hasn't kept me from dwelling on it, pondering the wake of destruction left by my own dreams. Reading this book I felt like Hajime was at times my Japanese twin, living an unaccountably successful and comfortable life haunted by obsessions more animated than reality itself. Sometimes I fall into a trance - a girl in the car next to me reminds me of an old love, a phrase overheard takes me to a place thirty years ago - and I can't really lift myself from it for several days. My wife asks what's wrong and there's no way to explain. It's like a dream that sticks to you all day long or a name that's on the tip of your tongue all weekend but you just can't remember it. That was the experience of South of the Border, West of the Moon, a surprisingly flat and simple story with perfectly chosen oddities and enough specificity to create an unforgettable world. You know the way some short stories are exquisite jewels perfectly set? That's this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Epops on January 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book reminds me of the old French song "Plaisir d'amour" - "the pleasure of love lasts but a moment, the sorrow of love lasts all one's life."

"South of the Border, West of the Sun" shares some common elements with the other Murakami fiction ("Sputnik Sweetheart", "After the Quake", "Hard-boiled Wonderland", and "The Windup Bird Chronicle") I've read so far: Self-centered men, elusive women, mysterious events. But this novel, less otherworldly than his other works, is a realistic portrayal of a failed romance. And the setting, social structure, and mores are very Japanese, in spite of the Western pop cultural content.

I have the impression that the novel is autobiographical, but whether or not that is true, Murakami conveys the emotional upheavel of a passionate extra-marital affair with great precision and insight, in spite of the barriers imposed by culture and language.

Philip Gabriel has done an excellent job with the translation. There were a couple of instances where I thought he might have made a better choice of language, but they were so minor that I didn't bother to note them. We always know we are reading a story about Japanese people, occuring in Japan, but they are real people and they speak a language we can understand. The translator seems to have erected no barriers between them and us, which is a remarkable accomplishment, given the differences between the Japanese and English languages.

"South of the Border, West of the Sun" lacks the weirdness and fantasy of Murakami's more recent novels, and will disappoint readers who like that aspect of Murakami's work, and who don't like adult love stories. But this novel easily stands comparison with the best of modern American fiction.

Highly recommended.
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