South of the Border, West of the Sun

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9780375402517: South of the Border, West of the Sun

Following the massive complexity of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle--Haruki Murakami's best-selling, award-winning novel--comes this deceptively simple love story, a contemporary rendering of the romance in which a boy finds and then loses a girl, only to meet her again years later.

Hajime--"Beginning" in Japanese--was an atypical only child growing up in a conventional middle-class suburb. Shimamoto, herself an only child, was cool and self-possessed, precocious in the extreme. After school these childhood sweethearts would listen to records, hold hands, and talk about their future. Then, despite themselves, in the way peculiar to adolescents, they grew apart, seemingly for good.

Now, facing middle age, finally content after years of aimlessness, Hajime is a successful nightclub owner, a husband and father, when he suddenly is reunited with Shimamoto, propelled into the mysteries of her life, and confronted by dark secrets she is loath to reveal. And so, reckless with enchantment and lust, Hajime prepares to risk everything in order to consummate his first love, and to experience a life he's dreamed of but never had a chance to realize.

Bittersweet, passionate, and ultimately redemptive, South of the Border, West of the Sun is an intricate examination of desire, illuminating the persistent power of childhood and memory in matters of the heart.

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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 he 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

From the Back Cover:

Praise for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:

"A labyrinth designed by a master, at once familiar and irresistibly strange."--Janice P. Nimura, San Francisco Sunday Examiner and Chronicle

Murakami [is] some kind of wizard...The apparent simplicity of his expression... nearly disguises the fact that The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is, in the most time-honored sense, an epic...Every character, every story, nearly every circumstantial detail, appears to connect with every other in some ectoplasmic cat's cradle."--Luc Sante, New York

Mesmerizing...A major work...A love story one minute, a detective story the next, a psychological thriller, a New Age--ish bildungsroman, a sober chronicle of wartime atrocities, a meditation on historical guilt, and more, in dizzying succession...Murakami's most ambitious attempt yet to stuff all of modern Japan into a single fictional edifice." --Elizabeth Ward, Washington Post Book World

A postwar successor [to] the Big Three of modern Japanese literature--Mishima, Kawabata, and Tanizaki...A cool forty-eight-year-old who once ran a jazz bar [and] has translated John Irving, Truman Capote, and Raymond Carver into Japanese, [Murakami] has been perfectly positioned to serve as the voice of hip, Westernized Japan...Yet none of his earlier books prepare one for his massive new Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which digs relentlessly into the buried secrets of Japan's recent past."

--Pico Iyer, Time

A bold and generous book...Straight-ahead storytelling [that] never loses its propulsive force...Western critics searching for parallels have variously likened him to Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Arthur C. Clarke, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis, and Thomas Pynchon--a roster so ill assorted that Murakami may in fact be an original." --Jamie James, New York Times Book Review

A beguiling sense of mystery suffuses The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and draws us irresistibly and ever deeper into the phantasmagoria of pain and memory... 'Every secret struggles to reveal itself,' Isaac Bashevis Singer once wrote. That's exactly what happens [here], and that's precisely why the book is so compelling and ultimately so convincing." --Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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Haruki Murakami; Philip Gabriel [Translator]
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