Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami, Alfred A Knopf, 2005, 467 pp, (translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, published in Japan 2002)
Summary from Goodreads: Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, 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. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle - yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
My Review: I am no longer a Murakami virgin. He has had his way with me, it was painless, and I am more than satisfied while being left wanting more.
I had mistakenly thought it would be a challenging read. Instead it was smooth and moved along like a bullet train. Though the novel is set in 21st century Japan, somehow having read The Makioka Sisters just a couple weeks earlier, I felt oriented in the country. Also the story opens with an incident that happened during WWII so at first it almost felt like I was reading a sequel.
I loved the David Mitchell-style way that the story jumped back and forth in time and slowly revealed the connections between the characters.
I loved the ghost story atmosphere, the references to music and literature both Japanese and American, but most of all I loved the characters, even the insane artist dad.
Kafka himself is one of the greatest characters I have come across in all my years of reading. Just to prove that he is an evolved human male, Murakami also created several awesome and believable female characters. He takes the motherless boy trope to new heights.
And yes, it is a metaphysical, magical realism, philosophical novel at the same time.
Since all I can do is gush, I will end here.
(Kafka on the Shore is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)
This is absolutely my favorite Murakami! I'm so glad that you liked it.ReplyDelete
I am so glad that we both have read it!Delete
I have to read this after your review. How can't I?! I haven't read any Murakami yet; I guess like you I've thought is daunting to read someone so famous. That was my reasoning about David Mitchell as well and my first Mitchell's reading was awfully entertaining, though Slade House, the one I read, I've heard is his lightest novel, both in length and in topic.ReplyDelete
I think you will love it! And it's funny you mention David Mitchell. When I read Cloud Atlas a few years ago I really did not like it. Then I saw the movie and it made more sense. Every December between Christmas and New Year's Day, I pick an author and read as many books of that author as I can. This year I am going to do David Mitchell, starting with his first novel, Ghostwritten. When I get to Cloud Atlas I am going to reread it.Delete
I tried to start Cloud Atlas months ago but it didn't click so I put it aside. The movie is by far the most visually beautiful movie I've ever seen, and I have seen a great many, so that's saying something about the source material.Delete
I'm doing that with several authors so far: Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, Susanna Kearsley, Ken Follett, and Frederick Forsyth, but I read them once in a blue moon because I'm trying to accommodate more new releases so I'm falling behind on my TBR list.
I'm planning to do that as well with Ernest Hemingway, Edward Rutherfurd, David Mitchell, Jeffrey Archer, Julia Navarro, and possibly Murakami and Kazuo Ishiguro. As you can see that's quite an undertaking! :-)
Wow, you sound like me! Since I began keeping up with new releases my TBR list has become so neglected (I call it My Big Fat Reading Project.) I guess we can just encourage each other along-:)Delete
For a Murakami virgin, would you recommend this book as a first reading experience?ReplyDelete
Absolutely! Though some people, including one of my daughters-in-law, feel that Norwegian Wood should be the first. How is that for a vague answer?Delete
I'm a Murakami virgin but after your review I should rectify that in 2016. Perhaps I'll start with Norwegian Wood first. hmm.ReplyDelete
I am sure you would like either one!Delete