This book, South of the Border, West of the Sun was published in October 1992. The year 2022 is now coming to an end, which means that 30 years have passed since its publication.
The year 1992 was after the bursting of the bubble economy in Japan, and although the novel is set against the backdrop of the bubble period and the atmosphere of the novel at first glance seems to create the atmosphere of a sophisticated love story, it is not such a simple novel.
The story unfolds from the time when the main character Hajime is in the upper grades of elementary school at the age of about 12 to 37. I read this book looking back into the past, just as I grew up reading a book published 30 years ago when I was 12.
I read Kafka on the Shore and became very interested in his early feature length works, which I found no less rewarding to read than “Kafka.”
I was aware from the beginning of the book that people are often drawn to each other by something they do not understand.
It is a certain “smell” that the person emits. But that smell does not have an odor. I might say it is an atmosphere, but it is something that only that person can emit, although I am at a loss for the right words to put it into words.
I don’t know if it is coincidence or inevitability, but I think it can be said that there is a strong force that pulls us together in a way that we are completely unaware of. That is why all the women Hajime meets are not balanced beauties who make you want to turn your back when you pass them.
Shimamoto-san has a limp. I believe that Izumi, Izumi’s cousin, and his wife Yukiko were all destined to meet Hajime. For some unknown reason, they are bound together by an intense force of attraction, but because this force is not constant, it is a mysterious force that, just when you think you are bound together, it rapidly weakens over time and may lead to a catastrophe.
I have experienced this myself, and I think it is clear from my own experience. I don’t know why, but the people I am strongly drawn to are often in my vicinity. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that my encounters are coincidental, but the women (and men) I am drawn to are always by my side, and we naturally talk and develop a friendly relationship.
But it doesn’t last long. The stronger the connection, the more the parting was like a spectacular death. Just like the relationship between Hajime and Shimamoto-san. Therefore, the relationship between Hajime and Shimamoto-san at the villa was a sudden release of energy that had been suppressed up to that point, and I believe that beyond that point, the stairway to death was just ahead of them. In one scene on the highway, Shimamoto-san asks what would happen if Hajime turned the wheel he was driving.
I believe that Shimamoto-san had already sensed the presence of death before she arrived at the villa, when Hajime asked her to go to the villa from the beginning in his bar.
Shimamoto-san disappeared the next morning.
The two of them did not have to die. When the presence of death is hidden from us, we may have a strange defensive reaction.
Hajime was unable to erase Shimamoto-san’s presence for 25 years, from the age of 12 to 37, and it lingered in his mind, but he was able to connect with her that night at the villa. However, it was broken the moment they tied the knot. It was as if, after many, many attempts at threading a single thin thread through the needle hole, the moment the thread finally passed through, her hand slipped and the thread fell out of the needle hole again. I think Shimamoto-san already knew the end of the story from the time she met Hajime when she was 12 years old. Ms. Shimamoto could not resist the force that pulled her to Hajime either, but the next morning she had to choose of her own volition to disappear to avoid their destruction.
Some problems, though short, cannot be solved without spending decades of one’s life. No, perhaps there are more problems that cannot be solved. Hajime will be reborn as a new person with the intention of starting over from scratch.
Shimamoto-san and Izumi will have to live.
Death is a major event that befalls all human beings equally, but I hope that our demise will be a quiet and peaceful one.
Hajime will no longer follow Shimamoto-san’s shadow on a rainy night.
There is still a world far south of the border, even if west of the sun there is only the darkness of silence.