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‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’ by Haruki Murakami October 28, 2008

Posted by ayasawada in Books.
Tags: , , , , ,


A relatively short Murakami novel at less than 200 pages, but I really feel brevity enhances a Murakami story. I’m a big fan of his short stories and having just previously finished his opus A Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I have to admit I was suffering a bit of reader’s fatigue.

So maybe it’s the brevity of the story, but South of Border shot right into my favourite Murakami stories, heck, maybe even one of my favourite books.

(Slight spoiler warning. Maybe don’t read if you really don’t want to know)South of the Border tackles that familiar Murakami topic of maturing love, that is the a man’s developing understanding of love, from that uncontrollable, selfish young emotion to a more philosophical, calm and balanced standpoint. I was going to say wise, but then can one ever be wise about live (not least us men)?

The story is as the back cover describes. It’s kind of a Japanese Casablanca, the main plot revolving around two soul mates, in a way, who just aren’t meant to be. I guess it’s that bittersweetness that makes it all the more charming.

Our protagonist has several other significant relationships in his life, not least his wife and his first girlfriend. Through these relationships he comes to certain dilemmas and realisations about himself, and relationships in general, that strike me as pretty profound. Like no matter how much you don’t intend to, sometimes you just end up hurting people you really care about, and at the same time yourself. Or wondering if something that feels so compelling, so right, is necessarily the same as the right course of action. It’s these life realisations that really make a Murakami story for me — those profound observations that really speak to you and resonate empathically with your own life.

Of course, the protagonist is a (relatively) young man, who likes jazz, reading and spends a lot of time by himself happily doing his own thing. He’s a father this time though, and that sense of family does add a different, more mature, feel to the story, as opposed to the youth of Norwegian Wood, the single man of A Wild Sheep Chase, or even the married man of A Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It has elements of the mysterious, but not the supernatural. Just the possibility, nay uncertainty, of everyday life that makes it both magic and torture.

South of the Border has one of the more satisfying Murakami endings, I feel. Without giving too much away, it’s a happy one but not fairytale. It’s a quick but really lovely read, slipping through you like a smooth milkshake but leaving a lump in your throat.


1. After Dark by Haruki Murakami « Canned Memory - May 31, 2010

[…] a short book — not necessarily a bad thing considering South of the Border West of the Sun is one of my favourite novels. But I found this ‘Murakami-lite’, much like I did […]

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