Bạn đang xem: South of the border, west of the sunHajime has arrived at middle age with a loving family và an enviable career, yet he feels incomplete. When a childhood friend, now a beautiful woman, shows up with a secret from which she is unable to escape, the fault lines of doubt in Hajime’s quotidian existence begin to give way. Rich, mysterious, and quietly dazzling, in South of the Border, West of the Sun the simple arc of one man’s life becomes the exquisite literary terrain of Murakami’s remarkable genius.
Read an Excerpt
My birthday"s the fourth of January, 1951. The first week of the first month of the first year of the second half of the twentieth century. Something to commemorate, I guess, which is why my parents named me Hajime"Beginning" in Japanese. Other than that, a 100 percent average birth. My father worked in a large brokerage firm, my mother was a typical housewife. During the war, my father was drafted as a student và sent to lớn fight in Singapore; after the surrender he spent some time in a POW camp. My mother"s house was burned down in a B-29 raid during the final year of the war. Their generation suffered most during the long war.When I was born, though, you"d never have known there"d been a war. No more burned-out ruins, no more occupation army. We lived in a small, quiet town, in a house my father"s company provided. The house was prewar, somewhat old but roomy enough. Pine trees grew in the garden, and we even had a small pond & some stone lanterns.The town I grew up in was your typical middle-class suburb. The classmates I was friendly with all lived in neat little row houses; some might have been a bit larger than mine, but you could count on them all having similar entranceways, pine trees in the garden, the works. My friends" fathers were employed in companies or else were professionals of some sort. Hardly anyone"s mother worked. Và most everyone had a cát or a dog. No one I knew lived in an apartment or a condo. Later on I moved lớn another part of town, but it was pretty much identical. The upshot of this is that until I moved khổng lồ Tokyo to go khổng lồ college, I was convinced everyone in the whole world lived in a single-family home with a garden & a pet, & commuted to work decked out in a suit. I couldn"t for the life of me imagine a different lifestyle.In the world I grew up in, a typical family had two or three children. My childhood friends were all members of such stereotypical families. If not two kids in the family, then three; if not three, then two. Families with six or seven kids were few và far between, but even more unusual were families with only one child.I happened khổng lồ be one of the unusual ones, since I was an only child. I had an inferiority complex about it, as if there were something different about me, as if what other people all had and took for granted I lacked.I detested the term "only child." Every time I heard it, I felt something was missing from melike I wasn"t quite a complete human being. The phrase stood there, pointing an accusatory finger at me. "Something"s not quite all there, pal," it told me.In the world I lived in, it was an accepted idea that only children were spoiled by their parents, weak, và self-centered. This was a givenlike the fact that the barometer goes down the higher up you go & the fact that cows give milk. That"s why I hated it whenever someone asked me how many brothers and sisters I had. Just let them hear I didn"t have any, & instinctively they thought: An only child, eh? Spoiled, weak, and self-centered, I betcha. That kind of knee-jerk reaction depressed me, and hurt. But what really depressed and hurt me was something else: the fact that everything they thought about me was true. I really was spoiled, weak, and self-centered.In the six years I went lớn elementary school, I met just one other only child. So I remember her (yes, it was a girl) very well. I got to lớn know her well, and we talked about all sorts of things. We understood each other. You could even say I loved her.Her last name was Shimamoto. Soon after she was born, she came down with polio, which made her drag her left leg. On đứng đầu of that, she"d transferred khổng lồ our school at the end of fifth grade. Compared to lớn me, then, she had a terrible load of psychological baggage to lớn struggle with. This baggage, though, only made her a tougher, more self-possessed only child than I could ever have been. She never whined or complained, never gave any indication of the annoyance she must have felt at times. No matter what happened, she"d manage a smile. The worse things got, in fact, the broader her smile became. I loved her smile. It soothed me, encouraged me. It"ll be all right, her smile told me. Just hang in there, & everything will turn out okay. Years later, whenever I thought of her, it was her smile that came to mind first.Shimamoto always got good grades and was kind to lớn everyone. People respected her. We were both only children, but in this sense she & I were different. This doesn"t mean, though, that all our classmates liked her. No one teased her or made fun of her, but except for me, she had no real friends.She was probably too cool, too self-possessed. Some of our classmates must have thought her cold và haughty. But I detected something elsesomething warm & fragile just below the surface. Something very much lượt thích a child playing hide-and-seek, hidden deep within her, yet hoping to be found.Because her father was transferred a lot, Shimamoto had attended quite a few schools. I can"t recall what her father did. Once, she explained it to me in detail, but as with most kids, it went in one ear & out the other. I seem to lớn recall some professional job connected with a bank or tax office or something. She lived in company housing, but the house was larger than normal, a Western-style house with a low solid stone wall surrounding it. Above the wall was an evergreen hedge, & through gaps in the hedge you could catch a glimpse of a garden with a lawn.Shimamoto was a large girl, about as tall as I was, with striking features. I was certain that in a few years she would be gorgeous. But when I first met her, she hadn"t developed an outer look to match her inner qualities. Something about her was unbalanced, & not many people felt she was much to look at. There was an adult part of her & a part that was still a childand they were out of sync. And this out-of-sync chất lượng made people uneasy.Probably because our houses were so close, literally a stone"s throw from each other, the first month after she came lớn our school she was assigned to lớn the seat next khổng lồ mine. I brought her up khổng lồ speed on what texts she"d need, what the weekly tests were like, how much we"d covered in each book, how the cleaning and the dishing-out-lunch assignments were handled. Our school"s policy was for the child who lived nearest any transfer student to help him or her out; my teacher took me aside to lớn let me know that he expected me to take special care of Shimamoto, with her lame leg.As with all kids of eleven or twelve talking with a member of the opposite sex for the first time, for a couple of days our conversations were strained. When we found out we were both only children, though, we relaxed. It was the first time either of us had met a fellow only child. We had so much we"d held inside about being only children. Often we"d walk home together. Slowly, because of her leg, we"d walk the three quarters of a mile home, talking about all kinds of things. The more we talked, the more we realized we had in common: our love of books và music; not khổng lồ mention cats. We both had a hard time explaining our feelings to lớn others. We both had a long các mục of foods we didn"t want khổng lồ eat. When it came to subjects at school, the ones we liked we had no trouble concentrating on; the ones we disliked we hated to lớn death. But there was one major difference between usmore than I did, Shimamoto consciously wrapped herself inside a protective shell. Unlike me, she made an effort to lớn study the subjects she hated, and she got good grades. When the school lunch contained food she hated, she still ate it. In other words, she constructed a much taller defensive wall around herself than I ever built. What remained behind that wall, though, was pretty much what lay behind mine.Unlike times when I was with other girls, I could relax with Shimamoto. I loved walking home with her. Her left leg limped slightly as she walked. We sometimes took a breather on a park bench halfway home, but I didn"t mind. Rather the oppositeI was glad to lớn have the extra time.Soon we began to spend a lot of time together, but I don"t recall anyone kidding us about it. This didn"t strike me at the time, though now it seems strange. After all, kids that age naturally tease và make fun of any couple who seem close. It might have been because of the kind of person Shimamoto was. Something about her made other people a bit tense. She had an air about her that made people think: Whoabetter not say anything too stupid in front of this girl. Even our teachers were somewhat on edge when dealing with her. Her lameness might have had something to vì with it. At any rate, most people thought Shimamoto was not the kind of person you teased, which was just fine by me.During phys. Ed. She sat on the sidelines, và when our class went hiking or mountain climbing, she stayed home. Same with summer swim camp. On our annual sports day, she did seem a little out of sorts. But other than this, her school life was typical. Hardly ever did she mention her leg. If memory serves, not even once. Whenever we walked home from school together, she never once apologized for holding me back or let this thought graze her expression. I knew, though, that it was precisely because her leg bothered her that she refrained from mentioning it. She didn"t lượt thích to go lớn other kids" homes much, since she"d have to lớn remove her shoes, Japanese style, at the entrance. The heels of her shoes were different heights, & the shoes themselves were shaped differentlysomething she wanted at all costs khổng lồ conceal. Must have been custom-made shoes. When she arrived at her own home, the first thing she did was toss her shoes in the closet as fast as she could.Shimamoto"s house had a brand-new stereo in the living room, and I used to go over lớn her place to lớn listen to lớn music. It was a pretty nice stereo. Her father"s LP collection, though, didn"t do it justice. At most he had fifteen records, chiefly collections of light classics. We listened lớn those fifteen records a thousand times, và even today I can recall the musicevery single note.Shimamoto was in charge of the records. She"d take one from its jacket, place it carefully on the turntable without touching the grooves with her fingers, and, after making sure to brush the cartridge miễn phí of any dust with a tiny brush, lower the needle ever so gently onto the record. When the record was finished, she"d spray it & wipe it with a felt cloth. Finally she"d return the record khổng lồ its jacket and its proper place on the shelf. Her father had taught her this procedure, and she followed his instructions with a terribly serious look on her face, her eyes narrowed, her breath held in check. Meanwhile, I was on the sofa, watching her every move. Only when the record was safely back on the shelf did she turn to lớn me & give a little smile. And every time, this thought hit me: It wasn"t a record she was handling. It was a fragile soul inside a glass bottle.In my house we didn"t have records or a record player. My parents didn"t care much for music. So I was always listening lớn music on a small plastic AM radio. Rock và roll was my favorite, but before long I grew lớn enjoy Shimamoto"s brand of classical music. This was music from another world, which had its appeal, but more than that I loved it because she was a part of that world. Once or twice a week, she và I would sit on the sofa, drinking the tea her mother made for us, & spend the afternoon listening lớn Rossini overtures, Beethoven"s Pastorale, and the Peer Gynt Suite. Her mother was happy to lớn have me over. She was pleased her daughter had a friend so soon after transferring lớn a new school, và I guess it helped that I was a neat dresser. Honestly, I couldn"t bring myself to like her mother very much. No particular reason I felt that way. She was always nice khổng lồ me. But I could detect a hint of irritation in her voice, and it put me on edge.Of all her father"s records, the one I liked best was a recording of the Liszt piano concertos: one concerto on each side. There were two reasons I liked this record. First of all, the record jacket was beautiful. Second, no one around mewith the exception of Shimamoto, of courseever listened lớn Liszt"s piano concertos. The very idea excited me. I"d found a world that no one around me knewa secret garden only I was allowed khổng lồ enter.