linzamaphone, October 24, 2014 (view all comments by linzamaphone)
This is still one of my favorite Murakami novels, even though it was one of the first I read of his. His grasp on solitude and loneliness is unmatched by any other author I've read, and this story in particular hits that beautifully melancholy nerve perfectly.
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."
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.
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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megcampbell3, October 9, 2007 (view all comments by megcampbell3)
Murakami has a gift for placing his characters in situations his readers can relate to. Usually it happens entirely in the details; perhaps most of his readers haven't been in a situation where coincidence, happenstance, randomness, and the surreal all seem to collide at regular intervals (or perhaps it just goes unrecognized by most of us in life off the page); however, within the shading of his writing, even the most unusual plot twists feel familiar. Murakami's writing alone makes him a worthy way to spend time reading: it is well-balanced music, as he was inclined to say of good writing (in a short story somewhere). It almost doesn't quite matter what the storyline is with Murakami; he has a deity's understanding of human nature, and to read any of his novels or short stories is both a comfort and a mirror. The narrative stands on its own, of course, but without Murakami's writing, it would not have the same lasting impact; it would not be classic literature. If it's your first Murakami, "South Of The Border, West Of The Sun" will surely lead you to other works; if you've read him already, it's only a matter of time before you reach each book in turn.
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Vintage Books USA -
Following the coming-of-age of Hajime, a lonely only child, into his young adulthood, marriage, and adult life, South of the Border, West of the Sun is a melancholy tale of a life of longing. Exploring love, attraction, sexuality, and happiness, Murakami's brilliant novel visits a marriage on the knife-edge of disaster. The tension, the indecision, and the longing are so palpable, you ache for each and every character. As the marital knots are painfully untangled, you can only wonder at Murakami's genius for capturing the ruin of a life, and laying it down on paper. Wonderful!
"Review A Day"
by David Hannon, Powells.com,
"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)
by New York Times Book Review,
"A wise and beautiful book."
by Boston Globe,
"His most deeply moving novel."
by San Francisco Chronicle,
"Lovely, deceptively simple....A novel of existential romance."
by New York Times,
"A probing meditation on human fragility, the grip of obsession, and the impenetrable, erotically charged enigma that is the other."
by Baltimore Sun,
"Brilliant....A mesmerizing new example of Murakami's deeply original fiction."
"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."
by Philadelphia Inquirer,
“A fine, almost delicate book about what is unfathomable about us.”
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