Kafka on the Shore Paperback – Jan 3 2006
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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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
One of the main plot’s key elements is the search for lost people, or more generally, lost identities. This search for that which completes the self is stated explicitly early in the book, uttered by Oshima, a character who is him/herself appropriately sexually ambiguous.
"In the ancient world of myth there were three types of people,” Oshima says. “Have you heard about this?” “No.” “In ancient times people weren’t just male or female, but one of three types: male/male, male/female, or female/female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people."
Much of the story concerns the circuitous routes through which Kafka, the main character, seeks his “missing other half.” In his case, this search involves looking for his missing mother and sister, without whom his sense of self is achingly incomplete. And when he does find women who can fill these voids, his relationships with both of them are both familial and sexual. His sister surrogate is a friend in reality, but she becomes a sexual victim in dreams. His mother surrogate is a dream figure who becomes an actual sexual partner. And if this weren’t complex enough, we are led increasingly to believe that the women may be, indeed, not surrogates but the real thing. This feeling is strongly suggested, but never confirmed. When Kafka asks Mrs. Saeki directly if she is his mother, she replies, “You know the answer.” That’s as close as we ever get to the concrete in this resolutely ambiguous novel.Read more ›
Why wait for so long? Well, perusing reviews and related material, I soon learned that a vasy chunk of the author's readership never understood the novel. Back in 2002, Haruki Murakami's Japanese publisher set up a website on which readers were invited to submit questions regarding the meaning of the book. More than 8000 questions were received. And according to Murakami, the secret to understanding the novel lies in reading it multiple times. "Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren't any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel I set out to write," the author tried to explain. All in all, it didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence in me.
Still, my curiosity was piqued and I knew I'd read it, hopefully sooner than later. . .
Here's the blurb:
An unusual and mesmerising novel from the cult Japanese author.
Kafka on the Shore follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This is a book that everyone, regardless of nationality, race, religion, and political orientation can relate to. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Peter
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... Read more
I would recommend this book to people interested in light reading on the side. Personally, I had to approach this book from a whole different perspective than how I'm used to... Read morePublished on Nov. 10 2013 by Christine
Compared to 'After Dark', my first Murakami novel, 'Kafka on the Shore' is rather more leisurely, a bit rambling, but just as delicious.Published on Nov. 19 2012 by Hektor Konomi
After "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" I was eager to read another Murakami, and chose this one based on popularity and recommendations from friends. Read morePublished on June 5 2009 by J. Tobin Garrett
Except for his non-fiction, and Sputnik Sweetheart, I think I've read everything by Murakami, and he's one of my favourite writers. Read morePublished on May 26 2008 by Tommy Tom Tom
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. Read morePublished on May 22 2007 by Goodwing