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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An odd adventure that leaves you perplexed
"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...
Published on Dec 18 2009 by Sam

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong, but not vintage stuff
Except for his non-fiction, and Sputnik Sweetheart, I think I've read everything by Murakami, and he's one of my favourite writers.

Kafka is pretty typical Murakami - that unique type of magical realism that he invented and which always seems more personal and gripping than the magical realism of the latin americans and salman rushdie. However, I don't think...
Published on May 26 2008 by Tommy Tom Tom


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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
By 
Sam (British Columbia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Paperback)
"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. Kafka goes into the world of his conscious and subconscious mind, but can never fully put into words what he learns from the experience. Thus, you must attempt to decipher it yourself. Near the end, we learn that the other world that the characters experienced was in fact the same place.

Like Murakami's `Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World,' this novel consists of two stories running parallel to one another. The odd numbered chapters are of Kafka, which are written in first-person and in present tense, and the even numbered chapters are about Nakata, which are written in third-person in past tense.

Throughout the entire story, Murakami tries to demonstrate that "Things outside you are projections of what's inside you, and what's inside you is a projection of what's outside." (352) Oshima says that human intestines were the prototype of a labyrinth for the ancient Mesopotamians. "So when you step into the labyrinth outside you, at the same time you're stepping into the labyrinth inside." (352) With this in mind, you will notice that throughout the story, dreams are as real as reality.

Read the prologue after completing the novel.

DISCRIPTION:

Kafka Tamura, in the beginning, is seen talking to "the boy named Crow," which seems to be in inner voice, about running away on his fifteenth birthday. And he does run away, from his father, from the terrible prophecy that his father used to mention to Kafka, telling him that there was no way he could avoid it. Kafka was prophesied to kill his father, and be with his mother and sister.

Kafka finally understood what the prophecy meant when he was older. However, his mother had taken left him when he was a child, taking his sister with her, and he could not remember how the two looked like.

Kafka goes on an odd adventure, where he meets Sakura, who he suspects to be his sister. And visits a private library, where he meets distinct characters, such as Oshima, the desk clerk who Kafka often asks for advice, and Miss Seiki, the head of the library, who seems to be living in the past. Kafka even stays in a cabin surrounded by a forest alone, reflecting on his life. Can Kafka escape the prophecy and change his fate? Or, like in Oedipus Rex, is fate's tug too strong for a mortal man?

In the concurrent story, Satoru Nakata, an old man, who when he was a child had lost his memory in odd circumstances. He lives alone, he is illiterate, but he can talk to cats. Cats, we learn, do not remember things as humans do because they have no sense of time. And like cats, Nakata lives in the present and accepts things as they are.

While searching for a cat that someone asked him to, Nakata goes on an unexpected adventure, meeting the cat killer, Johnnie Walker, and is led by fate to where he must go. Where he must go is what he does not know until the time comes. What mission much Nakata accomplish? Why does he only have half a shadow - a shadow that is lighter than a regular person's? Will an illiterate man be successful in accomplishing his mission?

QUOTES:

"Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear." (138)

"There's only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. It's like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story." (157)

"`The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.'" (273, quoted from Henri Bergson's Matter and Memory)

"`At the same time that `I' am the content of a relation, `I' am also that which does the relating.'" (274, quoted from Hegel)

"But beyond any of those details of the real, there are dreams. And everyone's living in them." (300)
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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
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Hardcover)
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 world master at the top of his form, Nov. 29 2014
By 
ronbc (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Kafka on the Shore has many of Murakami's trademarks — unexplained mysticism and magical creatures, parallel stories that slowly weave together, ambiguous plotlines, idiosyncratic cultural references, sex, and quirky humour.

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.

This sense of the transformational, the idea that our lives change us in unpredictable ways, is crucial to the experiences of not only Kafka but also of the magically-altered Nakata and his unlikely enabler, Hoshino. All three characters are changed, transformed, in direct response to the life events they encounter.

Early in the book, there are other quite direct expressions of the kind of internal process, the emotional and conceptual journey, that the novel presents. At the very beginning, Kafka muses:

"And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about."

A few pages later, Kafka expresses the ambiguity at the heart of the novel:

"It must have just stopped raining, since everything is still wet and drippy. Clouds to the east are sharply etched against the sky, each one framed by light. The sky looks ominous one minute, inviting the next. It all depends on the angle."

Much later, one of several amusingly supernatural characters scolds Hoshino:

“You still don’t get it, do you? We’re talking about a revelation here,” Colonel Sanders said, clicking his tongue. “A revelation leaps over the borders of the everyday. A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need to do is move from reason that observes to reason that acts. That’s what’s critical. Do you have any idea what I’m talking about, you gold-plated whale of a dunce?”

During a surreal interlude in a forest clearing that’s not just a clearing, and in what’s not just a forest, Kafka is told:

“Things outside you are projections of what’s inside you, and what’s inside you is a projection of what’s outside. So when you step into the labyrinth outside you, at the same time you’re stepping into the labyrinth inside. Most definitely a risky business.”

A risky business, indeed, but in Kafka on the Shore, also a fascinating and highly entertaining experience.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Work of Genius, March 8 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Hardcover)
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
By 
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This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Paperback)
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.

Cheers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Remarkable, Sept. 15 2006
By 
Road King (Muskoka, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Hardcover)
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
By 
B. Johnston "Almost Falling" (Vancouver, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Hardcover)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a disappointment. . ., Aug. 11 2012
By 
Patrick St-Denis, editor of Pat's Fantasy Hot... (Laval, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Paperback)
Intruiged, I purchased Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore the week it won the World Fantasy Award in 2005. It's been sitting there on my shelf for the last couple of years, awaiting my attention. And recently, it kept moving up in the rotation. In the end, I caved in and finally decided to give it a shot.

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. Their parallel odysseys are enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerising dramas. Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghostlike pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle.

Murakami's novel is at once a classic quest, but it is also a bold exploration of mythic and contemporary taboos, of patricide, of mother-love, of sister-love. Above all it is an entertainment of a very high order.

Haruki Murakami has an uncanny gift when it comes to set the mood. Kafka on the Shore grabs hold of you and sucks you into the narrative from the very beginning. As a magical realism work, this strange and whimsical of alternate universes and timelines is an enjoyable, yet uneven, ride. At times, the story is thoroughly brilliant and fills you with wonders. But the meandering and erratic plotlines sometimes become redundant and boring, and the pace is brought to a standstill.

The characterization was by far my favorite aspect of this book. Taking center stage, both Kafka Tamura and Satoru Nakata are the driving force behind the two linked storylines. Running away from a terrible oedipal prophecy, Kafka occasionally interacts with an alter ego known as Crow. Most men will recognize themselves in the boy and what he's going through and will relate to Kafka's quest. But although Kafka lies at the heart of the novel, it's his interaction with Oshima, Sakura, and Miss Saeki that makes his storyline so special. For his part, Nakata may be a lovable simpleton who can speak with cats. But his plotline doesn't truly take off until he teams up with Hoshino. Hence, though Kafka and Nakata are the principal focus of this work, it's the supporting cast which is responsible for most of the poignant and emotional moments found throughout its pages. There are a number of powerful sequences, chief among those a rape scene that many might find off-putting.

The rhythm is crooked from beginning to end. At times, the pace is fluid and Kafka on the Shore is a veritable page-turner. And yet, in some portion of the book the rhythm slows to a crawl and the plot goes absolutely nowhere, making me want to open my veins.

There is resolution of a sort at the end of the book, but one doesn't truly understand everything that took place. Which prevented me from fully enjoying the novel. Too bad, as this could have been a brilliant reading experience. It is good, mind you, but it could have been great.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, June 5 2009
By 
J. Tobin Garrett (Vancouver, BC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Paperback)
After "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" I was eager to read another Murakami, and chose this one based on popularity and recommendations from friends. However, I found the novel to be a big disappointment.

The novel just seemed far too random for me to get into and enjoy. I love when magical and strange things happen in books; that's why I enjoyed his other novel so much. But I don't like when they happen for no apparent reason. There are plot lines that are started and never picked up again or explained. Character actions that are never delved into. A few of these things wouldn't bother me so much, but an entire novel filled with them was irritating and made the story feel more like a cop out than something fully realized and thought out.

I don't need my novels to be linear and easily interpreted (in fact, usually I enjoy the opposite), but I do need to feel as though the author crafted something rather than jotting down everything that came into his head and then leaving it there.

I found the characters stilted and one-dimensional, and the dialogue similarly uninspired. Although perhaps part of the uninspired feeling comes from the fact that it's a translation, so I can look past that.

The plot lacks any real driving force, other than the characters simply stumbling on what to do next and then taking it from there. Instead of this being like I was on the discovery with them, it was just boring.

The experience hasn't soured me at all on reading more Murakami. If anything, it has made me want to read his other novels more so as to see if this was an anomaly or the standard.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong, but not vintage stuff, May 26 2008
By 
This review is from: Kafka on the Shore (Paperback)
Except for his non-fiction, and Sputnik Sweetheart, I think I've read everything by Murakami, and he's one of my favourite writers.

Kafka is pretty typical Murakami - that unique type of magical realism that he invented and which always seems more personal and gripping than the magical realism of the latin americans and salman rushdie. However, I don't think that Kafka was a) as powerful as Wind Up Bird Chronicle, or b) as much fun as early stuff like Dance Dance Dance, Hard Boiled Wonderland, Wild Sheep Chase etc.

Although all the characters are strong, and you're emotionally attached to them, something about the "magical" (for lack of a better word) elements is what is holding me back from really loving this book. Johnnie Walker, Colonel Sanders, the entrance stone, the being which, at the end, tries to escape from Nakata, none of these things are explained well enough to give us an idea of what forces are at work in this book. For example, who/what is Colonel Sanders, and is he good or evil?

I also think that Murakami does a poor job of convincing us that Kafka and Miss Saeki are "lynch-pin" characters who deserve to be at the center of some undefined mystical battle.

Anyway - average Murakami is still better than most other fiction, but this isn't his best.
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Kafka on the Shore
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Paperback - Jan. 3 2006)
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