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South of the Border, West of the Sun

by Haruki Murakami

ISBN 0375402519 / 9780375402517 / 0-375-40251-9
Publisher Knopf
Language English
Edition Hardcover
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Book summary

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 [via]