Kafka on the Shore

Monday, August 3, 2015



Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami
★★★★

I was so intimidated to read this author. For years I've seen people recommend his books, but I never took the plunge. Murakami has such a strange reputation and it's definitely not unwarranted. In Kafka on the Shore we have fish are falling from the sky, cats that talk, a pimp named Colonel Sanders, and a Oedipal curse. Throw in a bit of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Stargate, and a dozen other odd pop culture elements and you've got the novel. But at the same time it's about philosophy and literature and finding your identity.

It's a weird book but it's not hard to follow. There are two main plots that eventually wind together. One follows a 15-year-old boy who has run away from home and renamed himself Kafka. The other follows an older man, Nakata, who is unable to read or write after an accident in his youth.

Kafka ends up at a small private library in Takamatsu run by the aloof Miss Saeki and Oshima, both of whom have their own secrets. Nakata hitchhikes with a truck driver named Hoshino. I actually enjoyed Nakata’s sections more, though I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

The book doesn’t follow a normal arch of a novel and many things are left undetermined by the end. I was surprised that this didn’t bother me more. The strange thing about this book is that I didn’t feel like I needed to understand the “Why” behind everything that happened. It was just enough “out there” stuff that I could just accept it and go along for a ride. I don't think this book would work well if you did focus on knowing every detail and having an explanation.

BOTTOM LINE: If you've never tried Murakami, this is a fascinating one to start with. It's strange, but in a wonderful way. He's not my new favorite author, but I am curious to read another of his books and see how it compares.


“There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes.”



“Reality is just the accumulation of ominous prophecies come to life. You have only to open a newspaper on any given day.”

5 comments:

Literary Feline said...

I have two or three of Murakami's books on my shelf, all unread. Like you, I find him a bit intimidating. I am glad to hear you were able to dive into this one without any problems. It does sound different. And you've got me hopeful that I can read and enjoy this one without having to worry too much about missing the point.

bibliophilica said...

Glad you liked him. Your paragraph before "The Bottom Line" one pretty much describes how I feel about reading him too. I've enjoyed several of his books, and I think The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is probably my favorite. If there's one criticism Id have of him, it's that his characters seem to be "the same guy" throughout many of his books. I'd also recommend - as you might guess :-) - his short story collection "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman."

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Literary Feline - I was so glad I finally took the plunge!

biblophilica - Maybe I'll try The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle next. You are so good at appreciating short stories, but I still struggle with that!

thecuecard said...

I too have never read him. Seems so strange what he writes about. But I'm sure I'll eventually take the plunge. though I'm not very drawn to it yet.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

thecuecard - Wait until he really appeals to you. He's not an author I think everyone would enjoy.