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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »

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South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel

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South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel Cover

ISBN13: 9780679767398
ISBN10: 0679767398
Condition: Student Owned
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Review-A-Day

"A dark assemblage of the wonderfully flawed characters we've come to expect from Japan's reigning master of the surreal, South of the Border is completely absorbing despite its somewhat bare premise. Hooked instantly by Murakami's offbeat dialogue and the bizarre yet sweet relationship between Hajime and Shimamoto, I had a hard time putting this book down even for a minute." David Hannon, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)

Synopses & Reviews

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Publisher Comments:

In South of the Border, West of the Sun, the simple arc of a man's life — with its attendant rhythms of success and disappointment — becomes the exquisite literary terrain of Haruki Murakami's most haunting work.

Born in 1951 in an affluent Tokyo suburb, Hajime — beginning in Japanese — has arrived at middle age wanting for almost nothing. The postwar years have brought him a fine marriage, two daughters, and an enviable career as the proprietor of two jazz clubs. Yet a nagging sense of inauthenticity about his success threatens Hajime's happiness. And a boyhood memory of a wise, lonely girl named Shimamoto clouds his heart.

When Shimamoto shows up one rainy night, now a breathtaking beauty with a secret from which she is unable to escape, the fault lines of doubt in Hajime's quotidian existence begin to give way. And the details of stolen moments past and present — a Nat King Cole melody, a face pressed against a window, a handful of ashes drifting downriver to the sea — threaten to undo him completely. Rich, mysterious, quietly dazzling, South of the Border, West of the Sun is Haruki Murakami's wisest and most compelling fiction.

Review:

"A wise and beautiful book." New York Times Book Review

Review:

"His most deeply moving novel." Boston Globe

Review:

"Lovely, deceptively simple....A novel of existential romance." San Francisco Chronicle

Review:

"A probing meditation on human fragility, the grip of obsession, and the impenetrable, erotically charged enigma that is the other." New York Times

Review:

"Brilliant....A mesmerizing new example of Murakami's deeply original fiction." Baltimore Sun

Review:

"In Murakami's world, secret selves and other realities are forever lurking beneath the shifting sands of the everyday. If this examination of one of those selves is less grand than we've come to expect from one of the masters of the contemporary novel, it is also more intimate and every bit as unsettling." Booklist

Review:

“A fine, almost delicate book about what is unfathomable about us.” Philadelphia Inquirer

About the Author

Haruki Murakami lives in Oiso, Japan, just outside of Tokyo.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Kurt Kemmerer, October 12, 2014 (view all comments by Kurt Kemmerer)
I'm not sure whether I want to give this book four or five stars. OK, fine. I'm going with five

It's an incredible piece of writing, and it is the book that convinced that Murakami deserves the acclaim he gets. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the first two Murakami books I read ("Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End of The World" and "1Q84"), but the similarities of those books left me wondering if he was somewhat of a one-trick wonder who had lost his ability to write concisely, on top of it. Now, it's a great trick, but it's one he pulled off much better when he was younger, as "Hard Boiled" makes the much more acclaimed later book look overwrought and indulgent by comparison. Still, I had to wonder.

I wonder no more, at least for now. "South of the Border" is in another world completely from those books, and yet its the best Murakami writing I've read. Sure, as with the other two, the psychological conceits are only valid if one lives a "first world" life. Sure, the narrator continues to be a rather self-absorbed individual who can't seem to make the hard choices in life.

And yet, there are layers of subtlety here, whereas the other tomes offered only a thin veneer of the same. The constructs, the plot ran the show in the other two, after all. Still, the subtlety in "South of the Border" is hammered at times by literary bombs, most of which are truly pin point accurate. What's more is that there is no sci-fi adventure here. It's all on a human scale, and a scale that delves into mysteries few of us figure out during our lives, though we are all working our asses off in the attempt.

I could go on and on about the book, quite frankly. For example, the narrator was a Japanese male in 1980s who still brought his kids to school and back. He was, despite his otherwise selfish nature, walking a step into the future. Further, as a mental health provider, I can't help but see the narrator as an introspective individual whose lack of developmental experiences left him acting in rather a juvenile manner into his late '30s. Well, try as I might, I can't get to the core of the book using my own words.

Still, I look forward to exploring more Murakami. I'm not sure I could say that before I read "South of the Border, West of the Sun."
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Ellen Etc, February 13, 2014 (view all comments by Ellen Etc)
Hajimi (“beginning”) is an only child born January 4, 1951. He meets (Miss) Shimamoto, a lame girl and another rare only child. They’re friends at age 12 but drift apart when Hajimi’s family moves.
In high school, Hajimi has his first girlfriend, Izumi, but his betrayal of her with her cousin irrevocably breaks her heart.
When Shimamoto reappears in Hajimi’s life, it threatens the quotidian happiness he has found in his marriage to Yukiko and being father to two young daughters.
It is the story of a man who drifts, into trouble, into jobs, into success. He looks in the mirror and doesn’t know who he is, which makes him an enigma to those closest to him. But when caught in the throes of unconscious longing, he can again sacrifice everything and hurt those who love him in the pursuit of his own selfish passions.
Shimamoto shares many characteristics with the Aomame of Murakami's 2011 novel "1Q84." I speculated that "1Q84" may reveal some of Shimamoto’s unexplained mysteries.
Published in Japan in 1992 and in the US in 1999.
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monica moniker, August 20, 2012 (view all comments by monica moniker)
Having just finished reading this book, moments ago, I feel it was a very sad book. But in a comforting way. Sometimes the sadness of the human spirit can be comforting. I'm not sure how exactly that works, but that is how this book made me feel. Murakami does a masterful job of creating mystery in the supporting characters of the book. It is incredible how short the novel is, but how much life he covers in it. This book was very different from the others of his I've read, but in a way it was the most down to earth. The most "real." Even though, be the end (and throughout) the characters did seem a little fantastical anyway. A really beautiful, wise and sad book.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780679767398
Author:
Murakami, Haruki
Publisher:
Vintage Books
Translator:
Gabriel, Philip
Author:
Gabriel, Philip
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Man-woman relationships
Subject:
Japan
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;japan;japanese;novel;love;magical realism;literature;japanese literature;murakami;contemporary;haruki murakami;japanese fiction;romance;jazz;relationships;surreal;tokyo;asia;20th century;1990s;contemporary fiction;infidelity;asian literature;marri
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Publication Date:
20000331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
8 x 5.2 x 0.6 in 0.45 lb

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South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.00 In Stock
Product details 224 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679767398 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "A dark assemblage of the wonderfully flawed characters we've come to expect from Japan's reigning master of the surreal, South of the Border is completely absorbing despite its somewhat bare premise. Hooked instantly by Murakami's offbeat dialogue and the bizarre yet sweet relationship between Hajime and Shimamoto, I had a hard time putting this book down even for a minute." (read the entire Powells.com review)
"Review" by , "A wise and beautiful book."
"Review" by , "His most deeply moving novel."
"Review" by , "Lovely, deceptively simple....A novel of existential romance."
"Review" by , "A probing meditation on human fragility, the grip of obsession, and the impenetrable, erotically charged enigma that is the other."
"Review" by , "Brilliant....A mesmerizing new example of Murakami's deeply original fiction."
"Review" by , "In Murakami's world, secret selves and other realities are forever lurking beneath the shifting sands of the everyday. If this examination of one of those selves is less grand than we've come to expect from one of the masters of the contemporary novel, it is also more intimate and every bit as unsettling."
"Review" by , “A fine, almost delicate book about what is unfathomable about us.”
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