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Kafka on the Shore [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 3 2006 Vintage International
Kafka on the Shore 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.

As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.

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Kafka on the Shore + The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel + Norwegian Wood
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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Previous books such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood have established Murakami as a true original, a fearless writer possessed of a wildly uninhibited imagination and a legion of fiercely devoted fans. In this latest addition to the author's incomparable oeuvre, 15-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away from home, both to escape his father's oedipal prophecy and to find his long-lost mother and sister. As Kafka flees, so too does Nakata, an elderly simpleton whose quiet life has been upset by a gruesome murder. (A wonderfully endearing character, Nakata has never recovered from the effects of a mysterious World War II incident that left him unable to read or comprehend much, but did give him the power to speak with cats.) What follows is a kind of double odyssey, as Kafka and Nakata are drawn inexorably along their separate but somehow linked paths, groping to understand the roles fate has in store for them. Murakami likes to blur the boundary between the real and the surreal—we are treated to such oddities as fish raining from the sky; a forest-dwelling pair of Imperial Army soldiers who haven't aged since WWII; and a hilarious cameo by fried chicken king Colonel Sanders—but he also writes touchingly about love, loneliness and friendship. Occasionally, the writing drifts too far into metaphysical musings—mind-bending talk of parallel worlds, events occurring outside of time—and things swirl a bit at the end as the author tries, perhaps too hard, to make sense of things. But by this point, his readers, like his characters, will go just about anywhere Murakami wants them to, whether they "get" it or not.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Acclaimed Japanese novelist Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1997, among others) navigates the surreal world in this tale of two troubled souls whose lives are entwined by fate. Fifteen-year-old Tokyo resident Kafka Tamura runs away from home to escape a murderous curse inflicted by his famous sculptor father. Elderly Satoru Nakata wanders his way through each day after a mysterious childhood accident turns his mind into a blank slate. The relationship between the strange strangers isn't revealed until the end of the novel, whose precarious scenarios include a grisly killing, a rainstorm of leeches, and a freezer lined with the severed heads of cats ("Cut-off heads of all colors and sizes, arranged on three shelves like oranges at a fruit stand"). The book's title comes from a painting, poem, and song linked to a tormented library matron, who inhabits a limbo between the present and past. Replete with riddles, exhaustingly eccentric characters (a pimp dressed as Colonel Sanders, a Hegel-quoting whore), and imagery ranging from the sublime to the grotesque, Murakami's literary high-wire acts have earned him both boos and ahs from connoisseurs of contemporary fiction. What side you come down on depends on your predilection for the perverse. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd adventure that leaves you perplexed Dec 18 2009
"The world is a metaphor..." (465)

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is a difficult novel to understand, and the ending is not detailed. This is one of those novels that Murakami suggested should be read more than once to fully comprehend.

I thoroughly enjoyed the references to Greek tragedies and philosophy. And the translation of his prose was magnificent. As always, it seemed as though you were reading poetry because the words fit so well together.

The story itself seems to be inspired by Greek tragedy, mainly Oedipus Rex. Nothing was told about how the oedipal prophecy came to be, but with the hints given through out the narrative, and with the aide of Johnnie Walker, one can suspect the origins. I believe that this is a story about fate, and how it has the power to bring people together.

If you do not like the story, than at least you can appreciate the ingenious way the story is plotted and the way that the characters' dialogues were crafted. Through some of the dialogues, it seems as though Murakami is trying to let the world know about his tastes in music and literature. The journey of the characters is quite an adventure, that when looked back it, seems odd yet remarkable. The most interesting character, I found, was Oshima, the one with who Kafka had intellectual conversations with regarding literature and told many of his theories to.

"Waves of consciousness roll in, roll out, leave some writing, and just as quickly new waves roll in and erase it. I try to quickly read what's written there, between one wave and the next, but it's hard. Before I can read it the next wave's washed it away. All that's left are puzzling fragments." This seems to be what the title and the story are about.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Achievement. Jan. 27 2005
By Amber
KAFKA ON THE SHORE is sheer brilliance. Following the same proven track of the great stories of two separate lives somehow oddly intertwined like the classic TOM SAWYER, the modern masterpiece MY FRACTURED LIFE, or Murakami's previous THE WIND UP BIRD CHRONICLE, Murakami paints an utterly satisfying and multi-leveled story. The characters are masterful and eccentric. A stunning achievement.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Work of Genius March 8 2005
By A Customer
A stunning book of parallel journeys. Similarities to Rikki Lee Travolta's "My Fractured Life" play in the favor of "Kafka on the Shore." Two distinctly human adventures that intertwine sporadically in unique sometimes fleeting and sometimes lingering ways, then ultimately converge into a single pulsing line of brilliance. Expertly crafted and then perfectly translated.
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4.0 out of 5 stars okay May 22 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Cross between many books. Interesting notions/ideas. Enjoyed it, but not my favorite. Gave it 4 stars- closer to 3 maybe. Liked the flow. Liked the convergence. Missed a bit of punch. Nicely different from western authors. NB. Graphic sexual content - just in case that offends you, be warned.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Remarkable Sept. 15 2006
This is like nothing you've read, reality and fantasy converge and disconnect. An incredible insight into modern Japanese culture and thought which sweeps up the reader into following the actions of the protagonists as they inevitably come together.

Very different, and very, very good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Murakami June 6 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you're a Murakami fan, then you should definitely give this novel a try!

This book follows two main characters: 15-year-old Kafka, who runs away from his brutal father to search for his mother and sister; and an older man, Nakata, who lost a good portion of his mental capacities during an oddly interrupted field trip when he was a young boy, but he can communicate with cats.

The metaphysical plot is a puzzle that Murakami has said must be solved by the reader, and each reader will probably find a different solution. A reread yields more depth.

Highly recommended!
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