Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore – Review

Wow. What can I say about Kafka on the Shore? What can I say about Murakami?

It’s been a long while since I read a 500 page book in the space of a couple of days. Whether this is because of Murakami’s simplistic yet elegant prose or whether it’s the way he engulfs you in the prophetic tale of Kafka and Nakata I don’t know.

Murakami’s style starts off mundane. There are long descriptions of the clothes certain characters are wearing or the food they’re eating. Yet, before you know it you’ve been hypnotized into a dreamlike state where you’re trying to make sense of all the surreal events that are happening in this seemingly ‘normal’ world.

The book is split into two alternating, interweaving tales and it may be this that makes it extremely hard to put it down. Kafka’s story begins as a stereotypical ‘boy runs away from home’ adventure but turns into more of a Alice In Wonderland-like down the rabbit hole sort of fable. Nakata and Toshino’s relationship on the other hand is both gripping and heartwarming. I found myself constantly second guessing the meaning behind every situation they encounter, some of which are explained and some of which aren’t.

Anyway, I could blab on and write a full blown review about everything I liked about this book, but I wanted to write this not as a review but as sort of teaser to a book that I truly loved reading. This was my first venture into Murakami’s writing but one thing is for certain, it will definitely not be my last.

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4 thoughts on “Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore – Review

  1. I keep hearing about Murakami. I’ll need to pick up one of his books soon.

    Glances at looming and ever-growing “to read” pile and tries not to look terrified.

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  2. Your likening Kafka on the Shore to Alice in Wonderland is spot on, I think. It’s really interesting seeing it through that lens as I read. The cats as a symbol of Mirukami’s dream state, like Carroll’s, are the antithesis to Kafka’s machine reference in The Penal Colony, which is the hard reality described mundanely and at length throughout the book. Alice falls in a hole, Kafka envisions a sandstorm, Nakata eats a mushroom. It feels as if Mirukami is grasping for the meaning of his own coming of age by both structures (hard machine objects/interworkings organized by dream logic), and recognizes that memory itself is a construct of present day interpretation. So rather than writing his interpretation, which is tainted by the man he is today, muddied by experiences and connections made after his youth, he allows the reader to swim in a pool of these raw glimpses and symbols to draw their own conclusions as to what the such a coming-of-age experience means to them. My two cents.

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  3. Sorry, one more thing. Memory. The teacher from the mushroom incident describes memory as the thing that links people together. True isolation is the loss of memory. The loss of memory is arguably, then, the loss of self (the fading of one’s own shadow), if the self is only a mirror and link to the interpretation of events by a collective whole. Kafka and Nakata are ripped from the collective whole, but reversed in relation to each other’s experiences. Kafka by actively rejecting society (whose memory begins to diminish because of it), and Nakata by first losing memory (thus separating him from the society). How they accept or reject this fate is still elusive to me, but it seems sexuality is the construct that sneaks up to attempt to bring some characters back to the collective consciousness.

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