In South of the Border, West of the Sun, the simple arc of a man's life - with its attendant rhythms of success and disappointment - becomes the exquisite literary terrain of Haruki Murakami's most haunting work.
Born in 1951 in an affluent Tokyo suburb, Hajime - beginning in Japanese - has arrived at middle age wanting for almost nothing. The postwar years have brought him a fine marriage, two daughters, and an enviable career as the proprietor of two jazz clubs. Yet a nagging sense of inauthenticity about his success threatens Hajime's happiness. And a boyhood memory of a wise, lonely girl named Shimamoto clouds his heart.
When Shimamoto shows up one rainy night, now a breathtaking beauty with a secret from which she is unable to escape, the fault lines of doubt in Hajime's quotidian existence begin to give way. And the details of stolen moments past and present - a Nat King Cole melody, a face pressed against a window, a handful of ashes drifting downriver to the sea - threaten to undo him completely. Rich, mysterious, quietly dazzling, South of the Border, West of the Sun is Haruki Murakami's wisest and most compelling fiction.
©2010 Haruki Murakami (P)2013 Random House Audio
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
"...the river of Unmindfulness, whose water no vessel can hold; of this they were all obliged to drink a certain quantity, and those who were not saved by wisdom drank more than was necessary; and each one as he drank forgot all things." - Plato
(***1/2) This was not my favorite Murakami, but it was still good, solid (OK, maybe no Murakami novel should be described as anything close to solid) second-shelf Murakami. It felt like a mystical combination of Descartes + Proust. His themes of love, memory, forgetting, the past, reality, etc., were all better developed in some of his other novels ('Kafka on the Shore', 'Wind-Up Bird Chronicle', etc).
Still, there was something haunting and beautiful about the novel. For me, it was a story about the seductive and supernatural/surreal qualities of the past. It is, at heart, a dark love story where a man essentially becomes the lover to (and haunted by) the memory of his childhood sweetheart.
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