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South of the Border, West of the Sun (1998)

by Haruki Murakami

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,178801,199 (3.83)124
  1. 40
    Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: In my opinion, a much better book.
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» See also 124 mentions

English (53)  French (7)  Spanish (6)  German (4)  Norwegian (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Dutch (2)  Danish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
This is an exquisitely bitter-sweet tale of a love that never dies and yet never really quite manifests itself either. When a childhood love suddenly comes back into his life, our narrator finds that he is haunted by a mysterious woman who's never really quite there. Filled with many of the recurring motifs Murakami seems obsessed with, reading him is like returning to talk to an intimate friend. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
best Murakami book :) all are good if you like murakami style but for me No1 is south of the border ,west of the sun ( )
  HopeSinger | Jan 5, 2016 |
With the completion of South of the Border, West of the Sun, by Haruki Murakami, I have read everything in the fiction realm that Murakami has written that has been translated into English, which is virtually all of it with the exception of a handful of recent short stories. That rather prolific body of work includes thirteen novels, three short story collections and an oddball kid’s novella. Quite by accident rather than any design on my part, my final notch in the Murakami catalog represents something of the mid-point of the author’s career – South of the Border, West of the Sun appeared first in Japan in 1992 and was later released in English in 2000; six novels were published before it, and six more after it. This review thus affords a kind of opportunity for me to reflect not only on this novel but also upon Murakami’s overall literary impact.
Like the author, Hajime – the central character of South of the Border, West of the Sun – is an only child who grows up to own a jazz bar. Like nearly every Murakami male protagonist, Hajime is a passive, introspective fellow who rather than managing his own destiny more or less lets life happen to him. Approaching middle age, an affluent family man in a stable but colorless marriage, Hajime finds himself haunted both by the memories of an old girlfriend whom he once hurt very deeply, and by a longing for a close female childhood friend named Shimamoto who dragged one leg due to polio. Some two and a half decades have passed since he has seen her, but one day Shimamoto randomly shows up in his jazz bar, a mysterious and now strikingly beautiful woman whose leg has been mended by surgery. Hajime falls deeply in love with her, but the enigmatic Shimamoto disappears and reappears in his life without explanation over the coming months. Still, Hajime finds himself committed to her and willing to give up his family and sacrifice everything to be with her.
The first part of the novel’s title corresponds to a song ostensibly recorded by Nat King Cole; the second refers to an Inuit syndrome known as “Arctic hysteria” where monotony begets a series of irrational acts followed by amnesia. While most critics fail to reflect upon this, the signposts in the title and various other clues lead me to believe that the adult Shimamoto was in fact an imaginary phantom conjured up in Hajime’s mid-life crisis rather than an actual flesh-and-blood lover, but there remains enough ambiguity that – as with the creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein –it could easily go either way. Like Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – which Murakami has said deeply influenced him and which he himself translated into Japanese – the style and tone of South of the Border, West of the Sun seems rather ordinary while reading it, yet belies a much greater complexity that is only truly revealed once the final pages have been turned.
In the same sense, I suppose, I find myself relishing Murakami’s prose far more than I actually value each book as a finished work. That is perhaps odd, but I’m not certain there is a better way to express it. Of the thirteen Murakami novels, I still would call Kafka on the Shore – the very first one I read – his most brilliant work and the one I enjoyed the most. And by far the one I liked the very least was his most recent, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I recall being frustrated as hell by all of the loose ends that remain frayed at the conclusion of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84, but it is in retrospect that I came to reflect upon these as great literature and among his finest works. Like most critics I loved A Wild Sheep Chase, and find it amusing that so many pseudo-intellectuals simply don’t get it. Unlike many fans, I found the much celebrated Norwegian Wood boring and uninspiring. Still, once you are bitten by the Murakami bug, it remains hard to let go. Like the songs of the Beatles, there really isn’t a truly bad tune.

http://regarp.com/2015/12/26/review-of-south-of-the-border-west-of-the-sun-by-ha... ( )
  Garp83 | Dec 26, 2015 |
“After a certain length of time has passed, things harden up. Like a cement hardening in a bucket. And we can't go back anymore”

― Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun ( )
  jrthebutler | Oct 28, 2015 |
The Short of It:

Success and happiness don’t always go hand in hand.

The Rest of It:

Okay, guys. My love for Murakami is approaching full-on creep level. If I could shrink him down and put him in my pocket, I’d carry him around all day long. Weird, huh?

I saved this book for a long time because it was the last translated novel that I had not read but when my father passed away and I was unable to pull myself out of bed, I reached for it and Murakami’s writing did what I expected it to. It soothed, refreshed, made me ponder life in a big way, and all of a sudden all these feelings were rushing through me again.

This is probably one of my favorite novels, ever. It’s right up there with Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It’s a plain, simple story about a middle-aged man by the name of Hajime. He has a loving wife, and two beautiful daughters. He owns a couple of very successful Jazz clubs and enjoys the life he’s earned. But deep down, there’s something missing.

Not fully understanding this sense of longing, he’s reminded of a girl he knew in childhood by the name of Shimamoto. She was his everything but that was a long time ago. Is it possible that she even remembers him?

Memory plays a big role in this story and it’s beautifully handled. Murakami paints vivid, broad strokes when it comes to Shimamoto so it’s easy to see why Hajime is so taken with her. In childhood she’s this beautiful, delicate untouchable thing but when she walks into his club one rainy evening, Hajime begins to doubt his own existence and is no longer sure what happiness is.

This novel is full of romantic interludes but I hesitate to call it a romance because it’s much deeper than your typical romance novel. If you are familiar with Murakami’s writing at all, you know that his books can walk the surreal line. Some of his books are way out there, like Kafka and Wind-up but others are more subtle and this one is definitely one of the quiet ones but oh, how I loved it. That last page! That last line. Sigh.

If I want to try Murakami, which book should I read first?

Everyone always asks me which book to read first. It’s really hard to say. I read Kafka on the Shore first and it was like an acid trip. At page 50 I was about to give up on it and then something clicked. But that’s me. I like it when an author surprises me. But I think about 75% of you would run screaming from a room if you picked that one up first.

So then, to be on the safe side, I usually suggest After Dark, which dips into the surreal but not overly so but if you like excitement then that one might not work for you. Then, there are his short story collections. Some of you adore short stories and some of you don’t. But, I have to say that South of the Border, West of the Sun is the one I will recommend for first time readers from here on out. It’s beautifully written and well-balanced. Not too much of any one thing which makes it a good read for first-time readers of his work.

For more reviews, visit my blog: Book Chatter. ( )
  tibobi | Mar 5, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Haruki Murakamiprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bandini, DitteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bandini, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fennema, ElbrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gabriel, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My birthday is January 4, 1951. The first week of the first month of the first year of the second half of the twentieth century.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679767398, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:20 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A successful Japanese nightclub owner, husband, and father risks everything to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart.

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