Book: South of the Border, West of the Sun

29 Nov

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I had to read a contemporary book by an Asian author for my Asian Literature class, so I chose South of the Border, West of the Sun, by Haruki Murakami. I had never read one of his books before and I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by his writing style. The story is very common and realistic, which I thought it would be boring at first, but somehow he manages to make it mysterious and woolgathering. I will read more of his work as soon as I have time.

 

 

General Information:

  • Author: Haruki Murakami
  • Country: Japan
  • Pages: around 190 (depends on edition)
  • Genre: fiction, romance, realism
  • Publishing date: 1992 (1997 in English)

Synopsis:

Hajime is born into a middle class family in 1951, when Japan was at his peak after the war. He lives in a good neighborhood where everyone is the same except for him: he is an only child and the fact that most families have 2 or 3 children makes him feel incomplete.

His only friend is a girl called Shimamoto, who is also an only child and has a limp due to an illness. They understand each other very well and have a perfect friendship. They love to spend the time together listening to her father’s records (mostly classical and jazz music). However, when Hajime finishes Elementary School, he moves with his family to another neighborhood and the two friends lose contact.

By the time Hajime is 37, he is married, has two daughters and runs a jazz bar. He is now a successful and happy man. But that won’t be enough for him anymore when suddenly Shimamoto walks in in his bar after such a long time.

Characters:

On the one hand, Hajime is a very realistic character with particularities of his own as any other person. We get to know him as he grows up and tries to find someone as good as Shimamoto. He speaks of love, infidelity, loneliness and change. His life is could be a real man’s life.

On the other hand, Shimamoto adds mystery to the story. She doesn’t want to talk about her life and sticks to that. We can only make conjectures from a few clues she lets out, but we will never know the truth. She comes and goes in the story, saying she has time whenever, but disappears for long periods of times before further ado.

These two characters create a duality between realism and fantasy, a genre that Murakami likes to right about, although in this book it’s not as noticeable as in others.

The best:

  • The story deals with themes such as love/desire, infidelity, reality/fantasy, identity, transition/reinvention, scars/memories… in a very fine mix.
  • The duality between Hajime’s realism and Shimamoto’s mystery.
  • The overall realism of the story. I usually prefer reading fantasy or science fictions, but it’s good to change sometimes.

The worst:

  • Boring at times. I’m used to complicated stories, but was still good an surprising in its own realism.  

Score: 

I think this kind of book can’t really be rated. I would give it an 8? But I need to read more about this genre because I can’t compare it. And I think it depends on the reader a lot, so… Just read it if you are looking for something easy and short that makes you think at the same time.

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