“kafka on the shore” by haruki murakami
kafka on the shore is a dual narrative dealing primarily with kafka tamura and nakata, two characters who unbeknownst to each other are both on a journey to takamatsu. kakfa is fleeing from his father’s oedipul prophecy (with the modification that he will also sleep with his sister) but he is also (almost contradictingly) searching for his mother and sister who left when he was very young. the other narrative deals with nakata, who after a bizarre childhood accident has been left simple-minded but has gained the ability to speak to cats. as such he finds part-time work in finding lost cats. it is his search for one of these lost cats that eventually puts him onto a mysterious quest. both characters find themselves on an odyssey of sorts whereupon they have strange experiences and meet very interesting characters.
the style is magical realism, but what is interesting is that the fantastical elements of the story never seem overly odd. even when we don’t understand what is happening or why, there is a feeling that all the events are still natural – in fact very natural. there is a reverence for nature that emanates from the novel and a sense that nature is more mysterious, complex and powerful than we often expect.
this book is quite a joy to read – which is in a way unsurprising because there is an element of the book that deals with the joy of reading. kafka loves reading, as does oshima (a friend he meets) and there are moments where they talk about their love for books and the meanings of some books. as its title suggests the novel is full of literary allusions and it is interesting how the characters themselves anaylyse their situations using literature and its quite refreshing how quickly kafka recognises the oedipul nature of his plight. they use literature and philosophy as a means to further understand themselves, their feelings and their fate. for lovers of books these moments have added pleasure because they can relate to kakfa and oshima’s appreciation for books.
as with his other novels, murakami’s love for music permeates the book and plays a key role. the title is actually the name of a song that is central to the novel, and beethoven, specifically his archduke trio, also features prominently.
when i finished this book i found myself a little confused – i struggled to find its meaning… but then, i can’t say i mind too much. this is one of those novels which you feel is very sincere and is meant to be just so. i couldn’t want it to be any other way. if the meaning wasn’t clear to me then that doesn’t mean it won’t be clear to another person. although, i also ask myself, why should it be clear? must the message of the novel be loud and clear like the moral of a sitcom? murakami has in fact addressed this himself, by saying:
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.”
which is as good an explanation regarding the meaning of the novel that i can think of.
ultimately, the enjoyment of the novel lies in the enjoyment of reading it… the experience of it… and the feeling of being immersed in his world.