Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

818109Translated by: Philip Gabriel
Genre: Literature
Date Published: 10/06/2005
Pages: 615
Source: Local Library

Goodreads SynopsisKafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle—yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own

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My View:  This is a spoiler free review. My full review is here.

Before I could even dive into the book, I got confused that I had read a book by the author (which I had not. The book I was getting confused with was Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and only realised my folly when I was writing this review and looked into it). I didn’t like that book very much so I was skeptical to pick this up even though I had heard many good things about this one.

Nevertheless, I did pick it up… and abandoned it after the first chapter. I just couldn’t get into it. So there it lay on my bedside table wanting my attention while I ignored it completely for two days. And then I kind of felt bad about it (or rather decided to give it a try since my friend had procured it from the library with great difficulty and I wasn’t sure if I could ever lay my hands on it again) and picked it up again.

It was the second chapter that had me captivated and wanting more. And then the pages flew by, well at least till a few more chapters.

A couple of incidents further grabbed my attention.  All the while I had this inkling that the words and incidents had a more deeper meaning attached and I should probably slow down and give my brain some time to think. But I was reading on a schedule here and hence flitted by.

I did have some hypotheses during this time.  I filed them away while I read further and those hypotheses kept changing depending on where the book led me.

It was towards the latter part of the book that things turned almost insane.  And I was almost pulling my hair out in frustration. I read on just be done with the book. Once I was done, I had the feeling of wanting to hunt down Murakami, sit him down and ask him ‘Did you go insane by the time you neared the end of the book?’ because it did seem that way to me. Phew!

I decided not to touch another book immediately after as my head screamed to (because it wanted to let go of all the weirdness this book brought about in me) and let it filter through. There was no way in hell I was going in for another reading as some of my fellow readers have done in order to get things straight. No, thank you. But somehow I kept myself from delving back into the book. It was almost like I was trying hard not to think about it. Wonder what it says about me, psychoanalytically.

There are too many questions left unanswered. Not that I mind them. But I mind the fact that this book had too much going on for its own good. Probably it needs to be read more slowly, writing down notes by the side and then contemplating on it. There are themes to be explored in here. But again, there are too many things there will be no explanation to and one wonders then, why, oh why?  So many questions.. Argggh.

Okay. I am not promising anything. But maybe, just maybe, I might pick up this one again a few years down the line and sit myself down with a notebook, read and make notes and solve the mystery. Or else, I will hunt down Murakami and threaten him until he solves all those mysteries for me. To be frank, I like the second idea much better. What do you think?

2.5/5 stars – Somewhere between ‘it was ok’ and ‘I liked it’.

2.5 stars

 

Author Bio:

Haruki Murakami (Japanese: 村上 春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as ‘easily accessible, yet profoundly complex’.

Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.

Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse ‘Peter Cat’ which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.

Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini’s opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells’ song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boystune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles’ song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole).

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4 thoughts on “Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

  1. You didn’t like Never Let me Go? It was my first Ishiguro so I loved it and reread it many times. I’m hooked on to Murukami’s short story collections but haven’t read any of his novels yet.

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    • It was okay but perhaps I went in expecting a lot more having heard rave reviews and it disappointed me. I haven’t read anything else by Ishiguro yet. Murakami short stories? I will give them a try. Thanks for stopping by, Gargi.

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