Dec. 14th, 2008

rxelyn: (writing)
Finished reading Murakami's South of the Border , West of the Sun on the train while heading towards Hilton Shopping Gallery for another caroling session.

The writing was simple and sparse, there weren't any unnecessary sentences clogging up the flow of the entire book, and the storyline was equally straightforward, depicting the life of an ordinary man, Hajime who enters into various relationships with different women throughout the stages of his life. There's the mysterious Shimamoto who was a childhood friend of Hajime and seemingly influenced him quite greatly, for he never forgot her and shared common interests in music and books. Hajime met Izumi during his high school years, whom he hurt deeply, by having a torrid affair with her cousin. After this last serious relationship, he then moves onto short meaningless flings, attracted to not beautiful women, but instead, a sort of magnetism that he senses from them. Involved in a dead end job and a meaningless existence, it is here that he meets Yukiko, his wife. It is then when his life takes a turn for the better, quitting his boring editing job and setting up his own jazz bars, having a lovely home and family. He is relatively well-to-do, healthy and frankly, quite a satisfactory life on the whole. But Hajime isn't contented, he still feels as if something is missing within him. And it seems that this easy life is broken when Shimamoto reappears in Hajime's bar. He hasn't forgotten her, as depicted in the various scenes in which Hajime looks out for women with lame legs (Shimamoto had a lame leg), hoping to come across her someday.

Shimamoto's reappearance isn't really properly addressed, like the smoke of her cigarette, she doesn't reveal much about the years after losing touch with Hajime and her motives for her actions are unclear as well, but it seems that she is still quite attached to Hajime who is so deeply affected by her that he puts his marriage at risk.

I feel that the title of the book itself, South of the Border, West of the Sun, reveals one of the main theme in the book, which is elusiveness/illusion. Sort of like a unspoken promise of something more in that far away land. There is also the idea of fiction versus reality, as seen in little scenes in the book, like Shimamoto's appearances and disappearances, Through the writing style, one could wonder whether she really did reappear in Hajime's life or the entire debacle was merely wishful thinking on his own part.

It's really quite amazing how one's actions can affect someone, whether in a small way or change their lives completely. Izumi never got over the hurt from Hajime and lived out her life in loneliness and emptiness, while Hajime, after Shimamoto's final visit, seem to have come to terms with his life and decides to start anew with Yukiko.

It's a story about love, about memories, about relationships, but mostly what it means to be human. We inadvertably hurt others throughout our course of life, and it's impossible to go back, because time only moves forward. There isn't any fantasical elements in this story, but nevertheless it's quite the compelling tale about the lives of the ordinary.



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