The Paperback Review: ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’ by Murakami.

“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel like I’m gazing at a distant star. It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.”

With ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’, Murakami creates a tangible reality in the realm of fiction, vividly drawing parallels between the deceptively simple and happy, yet mundane lifestyle, with the absolute havoc of the mind and conscience.

The plot revolves around the life of Hajime, whom we follow from an early adolescence, through his textbook editing days and right into his thirties, drawing an arc of failed relationships that start and end with Shimamoto, his childhood muse, who he runs into after two decades since they last met. Shimamoto, with her mysterious aura, puts him in a rashly conjured readiness of throwing away his family, his business and all he had ever known.

The author spins a very abstract dreamscape piece of fiction with undefined elements of love, loss and uncertainty, enveloped in the blanket ambiguity,which plays a major role in the storyline, almost as if the storyline itself isn’t important, but the feelings and the emotions involved are. The ambiguity works both ways. For some, it might be an unwelcomed cliff-hanger while for the others, it might allow one to adopt, interpret and connect with the storyline in one’s own way, drawing connections from one’s own life that a reader may catch if he reads between those lines. However, many a reader might not be willing to do the same.

The book is more like a written equivalent of an abstract painting, where the reader would often hunt for details that were never revealed, to the extent, one might even eventually give up on the storyline and not care. For instance, who was Shimamoto now, after all these years? Where did she come from? Where did she go?

The book is beautifully written, and with all that vivid imagery, I was left longing for more.