Even castles in the sky can do with a fresh coat of paint


I make it a point to read at least on Murakami novel a year, and have done so for a decent number of years now. One of Japan’s most famous authors (and undoubtedly the most famous outside of Japan), Haruki Murakami writes fiction with a slight twist of the improbable and fantastic.

His novels always involves the author’s own passions for classical and rock music, individual sports (for recreational purposes), literature, cats, cigarettes and sex. These are the main denominators that tie all of his books together, that and the presence of a character (usually the protagonist) that is utterly and completely lost in this world. And while they all share these characteristics, no book feels the same.

“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I’m gazing at a distant star. It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago. Maybe the star doesn’t even exist any more. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.”

On the plane ride from Iceland to the US I read South of the Border, West of the Sun from cover to cover, delving into the story of 30-something Hajime who leads a perfect life in Tokyo, but is unable to let go of his childhood crush.

We follow him from childhood through adolescents and adulthood, as he struggles with the fact that he – as he says himself:  ” never consciously tried to hurt anyone, yet good intentions notwithstanding, when necessity demanded, I could become completely self-centered, even cruel. I was the kind of person who could, using some plausible excuse, inflict on a person I cared for a wound that would never heal.” He sleeps around, drives a semi-truck over the heart of his first real girlfriend (figuratively speaking obviously), nearly flunk all of his classes at the university and spend year’s of his life in apathetic loneliness. Music, literature and sex are his main passions in life, and almost by accident the former becomes a part of his job as he opens a jazz bar in the fancier parts of Tokyo.

But the happiness and pleasure he gains from this is only temporary, and vaporizes the second his childhood bestfriend and obsession walks back into his life wearing 9-inch Louboutin heels and refusing to tell him anything that has happened in her life between their separation at age 12 and the present.

Cue identity crisis numero deux.

Like many of Murakami’s novels, this one is also named after a (albeit probably fictional) song from the early 50s. Music is a red ribbon that ties the story together, and create the pulls of the story, much like soundtracks of movies (only this one is in your head).

“For a while” is a phrase whose length can’t be measured. At least by the person who’s waiting.”

A short, very cute book. Perfect for a day spent in bed with a cup of never-ending amounts of tea and some classical music (preferably this spotify-list compiled of songs featured in Murakami’s novels).

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