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South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel Paperback – March 14, 2000
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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.
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Top customer reviews
Unusual in many of Murakami’s work the narrator and main character has a name, Hajima. In Japanese the word means Beginning. Hajima begins as something unusual in his generation an only child. We are told that that only children were expected to be self-centered and worse. Growing up he will resist and resent being typecast but he will also tend to behave according to the stereotype.
Along the way he will make many of the same mistakes of children and young men, but he will be haunted by them. In he will come into contact with two particular girls and mishandle himself, causing hurt in obvious, avoidable ways.
Having introduced himself and his history to the reader we resume with Hajima in early middle age, married, with children and in possession of two successful bars. Of material things his life is more than comfortable. He loves his wife and has the benefit of a rich and friendly father-in-law.
He is burdened with his past and not sure that what he has is to quote the song “all there is”.
The balance of this short novel, 212 pages in my edition is Hajima determining the answer to this question.
Murakami men are often on some kind of self–discovery quest and always with one or more women helping him. In this case there is, or may not be a woman in blue, from his past who visits (haunts?) him and forces the confrontation that will end this quest.
Reading Murakami in order has help me to appreciate the growth in the quality of the author’s story telling. South, West is direct with just enough embellishment. He uses, as he has, cultural references to western classical music and jazz. His world is material but with a deeper need for emotional and spiritual understanding. Given the importance of the female role in this book, women are not fully formed, but they display many personalities and degrees of strengths.
Murakami is one of my all time favourite authors and this book is simply...pure magic.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the best books i've read in years.
I know it can be bit tricky to try and describe Murakami's work, but i've reached the conclusion that to trying to describe it literally "as it is" is a waste of time. His works are to be read, absorbed and enjoyed, simply for what they are...pure, poetic beauty :)
the tight structure adds to its impact. The ending is kind of fuzzy and feels almost artificial. However, the love scene that precedes the ending is great and the book leaves the reader with a delicious sense of mystery. Definitely, a worthwhile, really wonderful, read.