West of the Sun

A novel-themed piece without meaning. Written on the 30th of April, 2022.


Despite how insignificant it may seem, the connections you make during your formative years can be a key factor in determining the state of your psyche in your adult life. 

Take, for example, a person who has, throughout their tween years, made and lost a questionably large number of friends and foes. Going forward, then, all this said person has experienced is interpersonal instability. Which is not to say, of course, that this impedes on their future interpersonal skills. In fact, I believe there is not necessarily a relation between bad interpersonal experiences and bad interpersonal skills. One may lead to another, but correlation does not always equal causation, as they say. 

Hajime’s life, in Haruki Murakami’s seventh novel, is somewhat of a reflection of this (or so I believe, having not made as much of an effort as I should have to remember the details of a story I am going to write about). He had always been on the solitary side, even in primary school. The main obstacle was, surprisingly, being an only child in a place where everyone had a sibling or two. That was the reason he never really fitted in (a strange one, but a reason nonetheless), until the appearance of Shimamoto: an only child as well, mature for her age, with a bad leg from having survived polio as a child, and interests in literature and music that aligned perfectly with his.

It was the sort of match one read about in books and watched in films; seldom seen in real life, if ever. It was something to be cherished, and something neither of them knew would have such a huge impact on their lives, especially at that age. But it did. Oh, how it did. 

The two graduate from primary school. They go to different secondary schools. Hajime goes through girlfriends, lovers. Then: a wife, daughters. It is only then, deep into their thirties, that Shimamoto shows up again, out of the grey—not blue, for it was a night clouded with rain.

Hajime does not know what to say when he is asked whether or not he is happy. Genuine happiness is a strange thing. It is not contentment, or the coasting, no matter how smoothly, through life. The realisation that you’ve been lacking it dawns on you in the strangest of moments, as Ray Bradbury has proven with Guy Montag’s little epiphany in Fahrenheit 451. I myself have experienced such a moment, although I won’t indulge you in the details.

Things like that twist one’s perspective. They change your reality. 

Something that might have been the norm, something that might have been the best ever, or something or another, or whatever else, may, can, and will pale in comparison when such an inevitable realisation comes along. You may not expect it. You never expect those things, even with practice. How could you, with the fortuities of life? Any major occurrence in your life could have been avoided if someone fifty years ago took a different turn down a different street and decided to talk to a different person. 

It sounds insane. But it isn’t. 

Consider this.

Imagine: your parents met because your mother’s driver dropped her off three street corners away from where he was supposed to. He is getting old, and Google Maps does not exist. Your mother, a persistent sort of woman who never gave up easily, did not try to call him back or run after the car. Instead, she had decided she would try to find her way home by herself for once. To do this, she walks straight into the neighbourhood in front of her.

On this path, she walks past a vendor whose stall was attended to by a young man and what must have been his mother. In his hand, he holds Sartre’s Nausea. Your mother loves Sartre. With no intention of buying anything, she walks to the stall.


Imagine she had turned left instead. Or right. Imagine she had thought: no, I’m not going to risk getting lost. I am going to wait here, and call a cab. Then you would not have existed. Because, yes, while she may still have children, it would not be with that particular man, and without that particular man, your consciousness would not have phased into existence through the joining together of the right gametes and et cetera, et cetera. 

It is so, so ridiculously easy, for us to have never met at all, dear reader. For you to have never stumbled upon this exact piece of writing and these exact words, or me, for that matter, as your friend, acquaintance, perhaps lover, confidant, maybe colleague, classmate, student—the list goes on. Identity has no borders. It is not a piece of paper with its definite corners, against a dark background. It is not tangible, nor is it rigid. 

But it does nothing for anyone to dwell in the past. Though the courses of our lives could have been easily diverged, they were not. And they cannot be, as long as time travel remains impossible and/or unavailable to the general public’s plebeians like us, because we do not have the powers to change the past, no matter how much we may have wished to do so in that said past. 

I am glad we cannot change the past. 

More than glad. Because if we could, I would have twisted my life so horribly and distorted my very being in such a way that I would never have spared you that second glance I did when we first met. 

It is a sort of relief on its own that history is unchanging. Yes, it may be ugly. Yes, it may be sad. But it has already happened. Those exact things, in their exact circumstances, will never happen again. Ever. The future remains uncertain, but that is the beauty in it, that uncertainty. There are no plans. No set path. No set ending. It is up to us to decide what the last pages of our story will say. Us, and only us. You could dictate and I could write. I wouldn’t mind, not one bit. I’d listen to you for hours if you wanted to speak for that long. But if you didn’t, I could fill in the silence. I wouldn’t mind, you know. Not one bit. But until the time comes, I’ll sit right here and read my old books and drink my too-strong coffee. I told you. I’m an old romantic. Cynical, I’ve been told too, but I have more than enough room for both. I’m reading Edith Wharton at the moment, you know? You don’t. But maybe I’ll tell you about Wharton and her prose tonight. I can even read you Miss Mary Pask as you draw. That one’s particularly short—fifteen pages or so. But it isn’t as good as Afterward

I blame all the thoughts I have nowadays on those 20th century authors. Márquez. Fante. Wharton. Soon: Bukowski, Sexton. Plath and Neruda. The list goes on. I’ve moved on from those old Russian authors, for better or for worse. 

“Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.” 

This line has been lodged deep in my head for the past few months. Here, Dylan Thomas speaks of growing old. “Do not go gentle into that good night.” But it is not only that. Not for me.

There is a fine line between content passivity and living your life from the sidelines. Here, one truly can lead to the other, if you do not tread carefully. “Nothing ever happens here.” Well then, make them happen. “All I do is work.” Then don’t, my dear. I too like scoring well, but I too, want to live a life I will remember.

What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out? 

It is an interesting song by an interesting band.

Do I throw my clothes in the fire?

Do I throw my hopes in the fire?

Do those things grow in the fire

Or burn just to keep me alive?

Can you still show me a way?

Can you still show me a life?


Dearest: how can you say I am a nihilist, when I have nothing, if not hope?

Contradictions, upon contradictions. 


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