I wrote this review before finding out about the earthquake and tsumani that struck Japan. I thought about not posting it, but decided to go ahead. For information about what is happening in Japan, and to offer help, visit this link. (Thanks, Google)
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel
Vintage, New York, 2006
I own this one. Another book read for the TBR Dare.
I’ve been aware of and curious about Haruki Murakami for a long time. I tried reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle a few years ago and just could not get into it. I found Kafka on the Shore much more accessible.
The novel revolves around the journeys of two main characters. It follows them as they are unknowingly drawn together. They never meet, but their lives connect through actions that are surreal and dreamlike.
Kafka Tamura, “the toughest fifteen-year old in the world”, leaves home to escape a curse or maybe to find his mother and sister. He is well prepared but has no idea where he is heading until looking at a map he feels himself drawn to a particular place. Eventually he ends up at a private library and developes relationships with the two people who run the place.
At the same time Nakata, a man who suffered a strange accident during the war that left him unable to read or write and with no memory of his past. Nakata leads a quiet life and has the ability to talk to cats. I found him the most intriguing and most likable character in this strange novel.
Nakata never went into these conversations with cats expecting to be able to easily communicate everything. You have to expect a few problems when cats and humans try to speak to each other. And there is anotherfactor to consider: Nakata’s own basic problems with talking – not just with cats, but also with people. His easy conversation with Otsuka the previous week was more the exception than the rule, for invariably getting across even a simple massage took a great deal of effort. On bad days it was more like two people on opposite shores of a canal yelling to each other on a windy day. And today was one of those days. From page 76.
In what seems an incident of mind control, Nakata finds himself drawn into an act of violence and must leave his home. He also finds himself drawn to a particular place and eventually ends up at the same private library.
After ghostly appearances, fish and leeches falling from the sky, possible incest real and imagined, and a journey into a dark wood, Kafka Tamura finds himself returning to his home to pick up his life again, but I found I didn’t really care what happens to him.
I admit Murakami is a fine writer. There are many beautiful passages in Kafka on the Shore, but by the end of it I really questioned why I read it. There is a great mix of philosophy, classical music, literature and mythology woven into the story but none of that made it real for me. I guess this is considered magical realism, a style of writing I usually love, but for me it has to have some warmth behind it, something real and human to hold it together. Sadly, for me, I did not find what I needed in this novel, it seemed to fall to pieces in my hands. I do not know if I will try another book by Haruki Murakami.