South of the Border, West of the Sun - Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel This is one of Murakami's more conventional novels. There is no magical realism in this story. It is more of a romance like Norwegian Woods or at least as close to a romance as Murakami can get. It also reads like it may be one of his more personal efforts. The writing is rather intimate if fatalistic. The existential side of the author really stands out as can be experienced in this passage...

"Our world's exactly the same. Rain falls and the flowers bloom. No rain, they wither up. Bugs are eaten by the lizards, lizards are eaten by the birds. But in the end, every one of them dies. They die and dry up. One generation dies and the next one takes over. That's how it goes. Lots of different ways to live. And lots of different ways to die But in the end that doesn't make a bit of difference. All that remains in a desert."


Murakami's characters try to make meaning out of the desert called life. And usually they simply cause more suffering. Yet Murakami finds a form of heroics in all this. Hajime, the novel's protagonist struggles to find a satisfying life with his wife and two daughter but his feelings over his childhood friend haunts him. As in most of Murakami novels, his female character aren't exactly normal either. Shimamoto is a mystery woman and not very stable. She clearly has her heartbreaks too. It is also a mystery at times what Murakami is trying to say. His writings are often pessimistic but it is a magical pessimism that hints there may just be an answer ot our mundane existance. This is my favorite of Murakami more conventional novels. While I prefer the supernatural Kafa By The Shore and the multi-layered The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, South of The Border, West of The Sun is a haunting read that keeps nagging at me.