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Posts Tagged ‘South Of The Border West Of The Sun’

I have read only two Haruki Murakami books, one nonfiction and one a collection of short stories. I thought it was time to read my first Murakami novel.

South of the Border, West of the Sun‘ is one of the early Murakami novels. It shows, because it is slim at around 190 pages. Murakami-San has moved on since, and these days he writes only chunksters. The story told in the book goes like this. Hajime, who is the narrator, talks about his life, from the time he was a kid. He talks about his beautiful friendship with Shimamoto in elementary school. They both are single children in their homes, which is very rare in the Japan of that time, and they bond very well together. But at some point they move to different schools and lose touch. Hajime describes his life in high school, his first girlfriend, his time in college, how he was stuck in a dead-end job, how he met a kind girl and fell in love with her and they got married and how his life changed significantly for the better after that. And one day, after twenty-five years, his childhood soulmate Shimamoto walks back into his life. The sudden, strange, unexpected changes that brings to his life, and the sudden long dormant feelings that spring up again in his heart and the crazy things he is ready to do and what happens after that and how it all ends – this is told in the rest of the book.

South of the Border, West of the Sun‘ is an interesting book. I thought the first chapter of the book was beautiful, exquisite, perfect. Somewhere after that the book slips and it is no longer perfect anymore. It is still interesting and I liked the story very much, and one of my favourite characters, Yukiko, makes her appearance in one of the subsequent chapters and stays there till the end, but that first chapter was perfect. It was like we were in the Garden of Eden, and then suddenly we were hurled into the real world which was complicated and messy. The story is engaging, we want to turn the pages and find out what happens next, there are beautiful passages throughout the book, the characters are beautifully sculpted, and they are beautiful, flawed and very human. The ending was interesting, even satisfying, with a perfect blend of unresolved mystery and good tying up of loose ends. I loved the cover of the book – it seems to be inspired by M.C.Escher’s famous series of paintings called ‘Circle Limit‘. Some birds in the picture appear to be smaller than the others. But in reality they are not. It is fascinating. Do google on Escher’s paintings to find out why.

I enjoyed reading ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun‘. It is a complex love story. I am the last person to read a Murakami novel, I think, but I am glad I read it.I won’t say that I have become a Murakami fan yet, because I think I love Banana Yoshimoto and Yoko Ogawa and Sayaka Murata more, but I think this is a good start and I hope to read more Murakamis in the future and see where things go.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite passages from the book. And in case you are wondering, it is from the first chapter.

“Of all her father’s records, the one I liked best was a recording of the Liszt piano concertos : one concerto on each side. I liked it for two reasons. First of all, the record sleeve was beautiful. Second, no one I knew – with the exception of Shimamoto, of course – ever listened to Liszt’s piano concertos. The very idea excited me. I’d found a world that no one around me knew – a secret garden only I was allowed to enter. I felt elevated, lifted to another plane of existence.
And the music itself was wonderful. At first it struck me as exaggerated, artificial, even incomprehensible. Little by little, though, with repeated listenings, a vague image formed in my mind – an image that had meaning. When I closed my eyes and concentrated, the music came to me as a series of whirlpools. One whirlpool would form and out of it another would take shape. And the second whirlpool would connect up with a third. Those whirlpools, I realize now, had a conceptual, abstract quality to them. More than anything, I wanted to tell Shimamoto about them. But they were beyond ordinary language. An entirely different set of words was needed, but I had no idea what they were. What’s more, I didn’t know if what I was feeling was worth putting into words. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the pianist now. All I recall are the colourful, vivid record sleeve and the weight of the record itself. The record was hefty and thick in a mysterious way.”

Have you read ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun‘? What do you think about it? Which is your favourite Haruki Murakami book?

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