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South Of The Border, West Of The Sun [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Jun 2000

Growing up in the suburbs in post-war Japan, it seemed to Hajime that everyone but him had brothers and sisters. His sole companion was Shimamoto, also an only child. Together they spent long afternoons listening to her father's record collection. But when his family moved away, the two lost touch.

Now Hajime is in his thirties. After a decade of drifting he has found happiness with his loving wife and two daughters, and success running a jazz bar. Then Shimamoto reappears. She is beautiful, intense, enveloped in mystery. Hajime is catapulted into the past, putting at risk all he has in the present.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (1 Jun 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099448572
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099448570
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949. Following the publication of his first novel in Japanese in 1979, he sold the jazz bar he ran with his wife and became a full-time writer. It was with the publication of Norwegian Wood - which has to date sold more than 4 million copies in Japan alone - that the author was truly catapulted into the limelight. Known for his surrealistic world of mysterious (and often disappearing) women, cats, earlobes, wells, Western culture, music and quirky first-person narratives, he is now Japan's best-known novelist abroad.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In South of the Border, West of the Sun the arc of an average man's life from childhood to middle age with its attendant rhythms of success and disappointment becomes the kind of exquisite literary conundrum that is Haruki Murakami's trademark. The plot is simple: Hajime meets and falls in love with a girl in elementary school but loses touch with her when his family moves to another town. He drifts through high school, college and his 20s before marrying and settling into a career as a successful bar owner. Then his childhood sweetheart returns weighed down with secrets:
"When I went back into the bar, a glass and ashtray remained where she had been. A couple of lightly crushed cigarette butts were lined up in the ashtray, a faint trace of lipstick on each. I sat down and closed my eyes. Echoes of music faded away, leaving me alone. In that gentle darkness, the rain continued to fall without a sound".
Murakami eschews the fantastic elements that appear in many of his other novels and stories, and readers hoping for a glimpse of the "Sheep Man" will be disappointed. Yet South of the Border, West of the Sun is as rich and mysterious as anything he has written. It is above all a complex, moving and honest meditation on the nature of love distilled into a work with the crystal clarity of a short story. A Nat King Cole song, a figure on a crowded street, a face pressed against a car window, a handful of ashes drifting down a river to the sea are woven together into a story that refuses to arrive at a simple conclusion. The classic love triangle may seem like a hackneyed theme for a writer as talented as Murakami but in his quietly dazzling way he bends us to his own unique geometry. --Simon Leake, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A story of love in a cool climate, intensely romantic and weepily is startlingly different: a true original" (Guardian)

"Casablanca remade Japanese style...It is dream-like writing, laden with scenes which have the radiance of a poem" (The Times)

"This wise and beautiful book is full of hidden truths" (New York Times)

"This book eloquent treatise on the vertiginous, irrational powers of love and desire" (Independent on Sunday)

"Impressively written and structured... Above all, the novel is memorable for its unflinchingly extreme treatment of romantic love" (Times Literary Supplement)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite Murakami so far 7 Mar 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading Norwegian Wood, I found Murakami an author I would like to read much more of. After The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and The Elephan Vanishes, I have to admit South of the Border, West of the Sun is my favourite.
Only 200 or so pages, this book is one of the most touching love stories I have ever read, although at no point does it become overly sentimental.It mixes together fate, love, duty and choice and one man's dilemma between the life he knows and the love he longs for since his childhood.
Enigmatic, beautifully written and utterly brilliant.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
If you have never read anything from Murakami you might just as well start from here (and then, once you are 'hooked' - which you will be - move on to Norwegian Wood and Dance Dance Dance).
Even the setting eventually reminded me a bit of Norwegian Wood (which I read after this one) it is an utterly magical novel, and if you think you would never read a 'love story', well, read this one and expect to feel deeply shaken.
This is not (only) about love, or lost opportunities, or the constant tension between marriage, love and friendship - this is a book about feelings, about life and, most of all, about everybody's sense of loss when we make "sensible" choices in life, that end up making us, in the end, deeply dissatisfied with our lives...
Really one is without words when it comes to review a Murakami book, all is that to be said is: thanks to those who initally got me to read one, and to those who have never read him, start today!
I have probably already said this on some other reviews, when it comes to Murakami, 5 star is not enough...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nebulous love story 26 May 2009
This is without doubt my favourite Murakami novel and arguably his most accessible book to date. Essentially a love story; the novel focuses on main protagonist Hajime's fractured love-life, and his ensuing mid-life crisis, as, running a successful Jazz bar and married with two children, he becomes dissatisfied with his lot and promptly - almost wilfully - puts all he has in jeopardy by picking-up with lame childhood sweetheart Shimamoto, who arrives unannounced in his bar, one ordinary day.
Ultimately, Hajime makes a decision, and the tale is resolved. There's not really much more to the story than that; however it is Murakami's dreamy and nebulous prose, and the haunting feel of this novel, that lifts it out of the ordinary and makes it such a compelling read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 10 Jun 2007
By Lousson
Murakami deals with themes of romance, longing, marraige, and sadness in this story about a a past romance. I think this is definitely more in line with Sputnik Sweetheart and Norwegian Wood, that is to say is more grounded in reality rather than surreal wit. In any case this novella captures the feelings of sadness and love really well, as the main character sits there looking out of the car window, we are there with him. I've come to the conclusion his writing style is a bit like a semantic Edward Hopper painting. In any case, this is a beautiful book which left a resonance with me when long after I finished it. A great novella that is written concisely and intelligently.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Painful, rainy nights, beautifully presented. 30 Oct 2003
By A Customer
I had recently finished Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” – this was my second experience of his writing. I adored this book too. Much shorter than “Norwegian Wood”, it was equally poignant, painful and exquisite. The premise is simple, the return in adulthood of a childhood sweetheart, and the consequences. The execution is beautiful. Murakami has a magical way of wrapping the reader in the pain of his characters.
I admit to having been frustrated by Shimamoto, a character about whom we never learn very much. This is the point though, neither does Hajime, who has kept her in his thoughts since childhood. It is powerful that their strong hold over one another is based primarily on the past and memory, as is so often the case in life. I agree with another reviewer that the strength of the bond seems disproportionate to the picture of the childhood that is portrayed, but I think this demonstrates that over time our memory distorts reality and turns it into something so much more perfect and desirable. Hajime admits to being nostalgic, and I think that’s the key to understanding the passionate hold Shimamoto still has over him in adulthood.
I like Hajime, I believe the character, I feel for his difficulties, because he is reasonably uncomplicated, steadily making his way through life without deliberate aims or purpose, like so many of us! I think his fixation on Shimamoto gives him purpose, for a while.
Murakami’s beautiful mastery of words makes poetry of his prose, and it flows fantastically, with some breath-taking moments. But the pain portrayed is acute, and readers cannot help but feel a proportion of this pain themselves.
This is a beautiful book that I would not hesitate to recommend.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My first Murakami 25 Aug 2005
By Veronica VINE VOICE
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. From the first paragraph I was gripped by the flowing prose and intriguing characters. What is particularly remarkable is that the main character is not particularly likeable, and yet I found myself totally caught up in his life and thoughts.
The novel starts when Hajime is twelve years old and his best friend is Shimamoto, a girl with a limp, whom he spends precious hours with listening to her father's record collection. As Hajime grows older he becomes more reckless, first having a passionate affair with the cousin of his girlfriend and later on having flings whilst his wife is pregnant. When he is twenty eight Hajime briefly sees Shimamoto and follows her, but they never speak, and Hajime doesn't see her again until she walks into one of his jazz bars almost ten years later. The novel charts their developing relationship.
I liked the themes throughout the book: being an only child, the nature of love and desire, why people do bad things, the tediousness of office jobs and modern City life. This was my first Murakami book and I'm looking forward to reading others. To be honest, I can't believe that I enjoyed a book so much that ended with so many unanswered questions. Shimamoto's life after she and Hajime were together when they were twelve remains a complete mystery, and the significance of the envelope with the money in it also raises plenty of questions.
Overall this was a fairly short, stylish read - just as I like them. Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Murakami
I love Murakami and this book did not disappoint. A classic for me that I will pass on and on!
Published 2 months ago by Aftiti
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic
I did think Kafka on the Shore could not be topped. I loved this beautiful love story. Very poignant and relevant in a time where we are judging unfaithfulness and married love as... Read more
Published 2 months ago by otilia guedes
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful.
This was my first foray into Haruki Murakami's books and I loved it.

A beautiful story of missed opportunities and reconciliation with the present.
Published 3 months ago by Blondiebear
1.0 out of 5 stars Disapointing
Dull-the sex scenes were the daftest I have ever read. His previous novels led me to expect something more imaginative
Published 4 months ago by Peter Smee
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasurable read
Easy to read, with interesting subjects. Another book that enters the possibilities of how we interact with the world via some interesting metaphors
Published 4 months ago by Alan
Published 4 months ago by FIORENZO SERENI
5.0 out of 5 stars Too many bells rung.
Perhaps my favourite Murakami to date. Beautiful,concise,crafted. Unsure how this could have made more impact on me,really.Totally wonderful. Too short.
Published 11 months ago by DaveInNZ
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful read but still waiting for the 'big happening'.
Even though I'm a huge fan of Haruki Murakami and all his works I found this to be a bit too still, a bit too quiet. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Charlotte Eriksson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving and Thought-provoking Novel
This is the second Murakami novel I have read, the other being 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles' which I greatly enjoyed. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Peter Godfrey
1.0 out of 5 stars Book Club Recommended
If you enjoy books which lack substance, are interminably slow, have virtually no plot, and have a stilted written style, then this is the ideal book to wile away the midnight... Read more
Published 16 months ago by John
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