South of the Border West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami


Hajime grew up in post war Japan as an only child which for him is strange, all other children have siblings. He feels as of a part of him is missing. His only friend is Shimamoto, a girl with a limp, an only child too. After a couple of years her family moves away and they lose touch. In high school Hajime meets Izumi , a cute girl who he manages to hurt, to destroy beyond repair. He leaves his hometown and goes to college to Tokyo. Every now and again he thinks of Shimamoto, he even follows a woman with a limp wishing she were her. Years later, Hajime marries Yukiko, a girl from a rich family. With the help of his father in law, Hajime opens a jazz bar, following by another one and the business thrives. It looks like an ordinary life, until Shimamoto reappears.

One rainy evening she walks into his jazz bar. She comes again and again, at irregular intervals and always without warning. One thing leads to another and Hajime lets Shimamoto sweep over him. I saw her as a film noir femme fatale: beautiful, mysterious and unreliable. She leads him to the brink of leaving his family, which, I think he might do if Shimamoto didn’t disappear again, this time for good. Her disappearance is a great blow to Hajime. It almost destroys him, even though she warned him that being with her would mean she would take all of him. There’s much he doesn’t know about her, however, she didn’t want him to ask questions about her because she wouldn’t answer them. He’s trying to pull himself back into reality, but reality isn’t the same as it was. Everything changes, collapses, empties itself into the void. After some time he sees Izumi, looking at him from a car. Her face is void, expressionless. It’s like an empty room, an infinite blank, infinite nothingness, an empty shell. The shock of seeing her, her emptiness, sends Hajime back to reality. He returns to Yukiko, “the good woman” and the routine of his “normal” life. The images of Shimamoto begin to fade.

I mentioned Shimamoto being femme fatale, but I also see her as embodiment of vengeance. Not by her own decision, but as if something out there or the chain of events itself gave her this role. Hajime destroyed Izumi, so now Shimamoto destroys Hajime. However, Hajime was saved. Izumi's void saved him from another void. Perhaps not even Shimamoto's void but his own.

When I started reading South of the Border West of the Sun I thought it wasn’t as weird as 1Q84 or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. After reading two thirds of the novel I discovered the story belonged to the same Murakamian world. The book surprised me, even though it started as an ordinary story, it wasn’t and I ended up loving it.

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Hajime je odraščal v povojni japonski družbi, kot edinec, kar se mu je takrat zdelo čudno. Drugi otroci so večinoma imeli brate in sestre, njemu pa se je zdelo, kot da mu zaradi tega nekaj manjka. Njegova edina prijateljica je bila Shimamoto, edinka, tako kot on, njena drugačnost pa je bila poudarjena tudi s tem, da je šepala. Kasneje se njeni starši odselijo v drug kraj, Hajime in Shimamoto pa počasi izgubita stik drug z drugim. V srednji šoli spozna Izumi, simpatično dekle, ki ga prizadene tako, da jo popolnoma uniči. Hajime zapusti domači kraj in odide v Tokio študirati. Tu in tam se spomni Shimamoto, nekoč celo zasleduje žensko, ki šepa, v želji da bi bila ona. S časom se ustali, poroči se z Yukiko, dekletom iz bogate družine. S pomočjo tasta odpre jazz bar in potem še enega. Njegovo življenje je videti popolnoma navadno, dokler spet ne sreča Shimamoto.

Nekega deževnega večera pride v njegov bar. Potem pride večkrat, v nerednih intervalih in nikoli najavljena. Hajime se prepusti dogodkom, pusti, da ga Shimamoto odnese. Videla sem jo kot femme fatale in filmov noir, kot lepo, skrivnostno in nezanesljivo žensko, ki ga privede do točke, ko bi zapustil družino, če Shimamoto ne bi spet izginila. Tokrat za vedno. Njeno izginotje ga prizadene, skoraj ga uniči, čeprav ga je opozorila, da je avantura z njo igra na vse ali nič. Poudarila je, da je v njenem življenju veliko stvari, o katerih Hajime ničesar ne ve in, da ne želi, da bi jo spraševal o njih, ker ne bo odgovorila na njegova vprašanja. Po njenem odhodu se Hajime poskuša vrniti v resničnost, vendar ugotovi, da to ni tako enostavno, resničnost namreč ni več taka kot je bila. Vse se je spremenilo, razsulo, izpraznilo. Čez čas ponovno vidi Izumi, kako ga opazuje iz avta, ki se je ustavil v prometu. Njen obraz je brezizrazen, prazen, kot prazna soba, brezmejna praznina, prazna lupina. Šok, ki ga doživi ob tem srečanju, njena brezizraznost in praznina, ga vržeta nazaj v resničnost. Hajime se vrne k Yukiko, k »dobri ženski« in k rutini »normalnega« življenja. Podoba Shimamoto v njem počasi izginja.

Zgoraj sem že omenila, da se mi zdi Shimamoto kot femme fatale, vidim pa jo tudi kot poosebljeno maščevanje. Sicer ne, da bi se ona tako odločila, ampak bolj kot, da se je nekaj tam zunaj ali tok dogodkov sam odločil, da ji da to vlogo. Hajime je uničil Izumi, Shimamoto uniči Hajimeja. Kljub temu pa je Hajime odrešen. Praznina, ki jo v sebi nosi Izumi, ga odreši neke druge praznine. Pa ne nujno tiste, ki bi jo povzročila Shimamoto, ampak njegove lastne.

Ko sem začela brati Južno do meje, zahodno od sonca, se mi je zdelo, da ni tako čudaška knjiga kot na primer 1Q84 ali Kronika priča navijalca. Potem, ko sem prebrala dve tretjini zgodbe, sem videla, da se dogaja v istem murakamijevskem svetu. Presenetila me je, čeprav se začne kot čisto navadna zgodba, to ni in ravno zaradi tega mi je bila všeč.



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