Book review of “South of the Border, West of the Sun” by Haruki Murakami


“South of the Border, West of the Sun” is a novel written by acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami, first published in 1992. The story follows Hajime, a man who lives a relatively happy life: he is married, is father of two girls and owner of a jazz club. However, his life takes an unexpected turn when he reunites with Shimamoto, his best friend from childhood and adolescence.

South of the Border, West of the Sun is a novel by acclaimed Japanese author Haruki Murakami, known for his distinctive style that combines elements of magical realism with an introspective and emotional narrative. The story follows Hajime, a middle-aged man who lives a seemingly successful and happy life in Tokyo, but finds himself trapped in a labyrinth of memories and longings from the past.

Both characters, only children, shared secrets and confidences in their youth. Now, several years later, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. Hajime, obsessed, seems ready to leave everything for Shimamoto. The novel explores themes such as love lost and recovered, the search for plenitude and the feeling of mismatch with the world that afflicts contemporary man.

Murakami’s prose is delicate and poetic, making the story captivating and nostalgic. Through Hajime’s life, the author addresses recurring themes in his work, such as loneliness, the meaninglessness of life and the search for reasons to live. In addition, the novel presents a portrait of family relationships according to Japanese culture, which may be interesting for the Western reader.

Despite its brevity, South of the Border, West of the Sun is an intense and exciting work that keeps the reader interested in the plot. The atmosphere of the novel is impeccable, and Murakami masterfully recreates Japan in the second half of the 20th century, as well as its customs and the habits of its people.

The novel focuses on Hajime’s relationship with two women: Shimamoto, his childhood sweetheart, and Yukiko, his wife and mother of his two daughters. Throughout the story, Hajime is torn between his current, stable life with Yukiko and his irresistible attraction to Shimamoto, who reappears in his life after many years of absence.

Murakami addresses universal themes such as love, loss, loneliness and the search for identity through complex and well-developed characters. Murakami’s prose is elegant and evocative, immersing the reader in Hajime’s inner world and allowing him to experience his emotional conflicts firsthand.

One of the highlights of South of the Border, West of the Sun is Murakami’s ability to blend the everyday with the mysterious and inexplicable. Shimamoto’s enigmatic presence and her almost supernatural connection to Hajime serve as a constant reminder that there are forces beyond our understanding that influence our lives.

In short, South of the Border, West of the Sun is a moving and thoughtful novel that explores the depths of the human heart and the struggle to find a balance between the past and the present. The engaging narrative and memorable characters make this work a must-read for Haruki Murakami fans and those looking for an unusual and profound love story.


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