Wednesday, February 15, 2012

South of the Border, West of the Sun

This is the book I was reading the other week. Haruki Murakami's South of the Boarder, West of the Sun. I have to admit, it was the first time I'd ever read any Murakami, even though I'd heard so much about his writing. It's a very quick read, only 187 pages long, but I was gripped after the first chapter which is very rare for me. The story is told by Hajime, a married man and father whose life is turned upside down when his childhood companion, the enigmatic Shimamoto, reappears. The writing was honest and engaging, simplistic but in the most beautiful sort of way. The characters are intriguing too, and show the real complexity of human nature and the grip that the past holds over many aspects of life. I found the contrast between routine, predicatability and stability in Hajime's life, and the way he mentally and physically reacts when Shimamoto reappears particularly striking. At many points while reading, I felt trapped inside his over-thinking/unthinking mind. I think you could say that it's the ambiguities between the simplistic prose of this text that are the most powerful aspects of the narrative. The repetition of the word 'probably', the uncertainties of time and the entrapment of circumstance. I'm looking forward to reading more Murakami, and if you haven't read South of the Border, West of the Sun I'd definitely recommend it. If you have read it I'd love to hear what you thought.

"I don't know. Something. Day after day you watch the sun rise in the east, pass across the sky, then sink in the west, and something brakes inside you and dies. You throw your plough aside and, your head completely empty of thought, you begin walking toward the west. Heading toward a land that lies west of the sun. Like someone possessed, you walk on, day after day, not eating or drinking, until you collapse on the ground and die. That's hysteria siberiana."


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