Cardinal Sins – Haruki Murakami : “South of the Border, West of the Sun”

“Rain falls and the flowers bloom. No rain, they wither up. Bugs are eaten by lizards, lizards are eaten by 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 is a desert.”

ABOVE: Photographs get all blurry south of the border and west of the sun.

The eventual loneliness that engulfs our insignificant lives gets a poetic geographical location in Haruki Murakami’s “South of the Border, West of the Sun.” The title references Seasonal Affective Disorder as experienced by Siberians, and an alleged Nat King Cole recording of “South of the Border” which doesn’t seem to exist, (so naturally the Internet MADE IT exist):

Containing none of the flights of fancy of “Hard Boiled-Wonderland and the End of the World”, “SOTBWOS” is a small, straight-forward novella bolstered by the direct confidences of Murakami’s narrator. Hajime ( “beginning,” in Japanese) is an only child in love with his shy neighbor, Shimamoto, who shares a misshapen leg with the protagonist of W. Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage.” (Considering Murakami’s declaration of appreciation for Maugham, it hardly seems coincidental.)

Time separates the two children. Hajime grows up, marries, becomes the responsible owner of a jazz bar (Murakami himself owned a jazz bar in Tokyo during the 70s.) When Shimamoto reappears, the childhood crushers fall into an adulterous affair that few would qualify as “torrid”. There is little steam to their adultery: these lovers are about snow banks and half-frozen rivers and icy sadness.

Murasaki stresses the concept that people hurt each other simply by existing, answering to painful magnetic pulls. There is no real escape from that hurt, nowhere to flee to. Hajime and Mishamoto grow up believing the lyrics to “South of the Border” referred to some wonderful promised land;  with adulthood, (and properly translated lyrics) comes the realization that is there nothing magical waiting in that direction.

The song was only talking about Mexico.



4 thoughts on “Cardinal Sins – Haruki Murakami : “South of the Border, West of the Sun”

  1. If you are doing a Murakami run you will soon find that there is common theme of memories of a first love that the protagonist is trying to re-capture, which led me to conclude that he has an unresolved wishes in his life, a regret, a disappointment that he can’t forget. Then again research shows that his life is pretty boooring.. But I am going with my hypothesis!

  2. Pingback: Nine for the Price of One : David Mitchell – “Ghostwritten” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

  3. Pingback: Nearly Norwegian Wood : David Mitchell – “Number9Dream” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

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