In Haruki Murakami's own words:
"It's all pointless--assuming you try to find a point to it." Kafka on the Shore
"It's not that meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words." 1Q84
I read this book last year, my first HM read, which I jumped into with no knowledge of the author, and having read no reviews of the book at all. Since then I have read several of Murakami books, and not because I am an enthusiastic fan at all--I actually found myself a little disturbed by Kafka on the Shore. I was bothered by the wierd sexuality, the blurry boundaries and constructs, the pointless ramblings, the silliness I thought bordered on insult to the reader. I read interviews Murakami had done, I read about his background, I read very dissected critiques by scholars of Murakami books, and still held on to a bit of repulsion towards Murakami's books. But...I kept reading his books! I was drawn to them; they haunted me, they stayed with me, persistently colored my mind.
When 1Q84 was released, I bought it impulsively,then wondered why. I realized that Murakami writes for the reader; I understood that what brought me back time and time again to HM was the fact that somewhere in me, I knew that in HM's books I was in the presence of genius. I could read/listen to HM and drift through a dream, like closing my eyes and floating on a raft in the pool, I didn't need to make sense of the journey--I just enjoyed it.
I relate this only to try to explain the experience I had with Kafka on the Shore, It was in many ways magical and lasting. I'm not sure I loved it, but it captured me. I could compare it to the other books of his but I will not because it has been done--I will leave you with my experience and say that Murakami, like any author, is not for everyone--just like Beethoven or Mozart are not for everyone--but their genius cannot be argued. I am looking forward to listening to 1Q84--just picking the right time to be consummed. If you are compelled to find meaning in every event, to right each word with your own understanding, read again the top 2 quotes by Murakami...you may "find" something that isn't even really there at all.
This story is wonderfully hypnotic and romantic and beautiful.
I was hesitant to download it at first, as I knew nothing of Murakami and modern Japanese fiction, but it surpassed all of my expectations and I was pleased to find that it transcended all political and cultural boundaries.
The narration is exceptional - esp. Oliver Le Sueur's Kafka - and the story was surprisingly Western in feel, and universal in its themes.
This story may not be for everyone, but for those who wish to venture outside the norm - and into a world of timeless love and gothic, romantic, tragedy - you could not do much better than this.
I have read some other books by this author and have enjoyed them immensely. This book is up to his usual standard. I thought the narration in this audio book was exceptional - better than any other book I have had from Audible (except His Dark Materials). I would highly recommend this book to Haruki Murakami fans. I hope they will publish more of his books in audio form. He is such an interesting author.
Excellent story. Why? Because it reaches into a place inside, not in all of us, but in some who see and hear the world in a shadow not as bright, not quite full. Those who peer into everyday life and feel the past, present and future collide into Kafka's character along with their own touch of ghostly sense will relate with this story of heartbreak and misty creatures lurking just beneath the surface.
Audiobooks are a big part of my life.
This is a beautiful rendering of two dream-like stories (which are nevertheless full of realistic details) that converge in the end, though not in the way you may suspect. You never know what is going to happen next with Murakami, and this novel, long as it is, kept me captivated to the end. There are many astonishing scenes here, some quite funny (especially those involving one Colonel Sanders), and elements of murder mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. The narrators handle the multiple characters with skill, and manage to keep the surreal plot grounded.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
When fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away from his Tokyo home, he brings with him a supply-filled backpack, a boy called Crow (his "imaginary" friend or "real" alter-ego), and a heavy load of Oedipal baggage. In Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku, he begins frequenting a private library staffed by Oshima, the beautiful, well-read, and understanding young man behind the front desk, and Miss Saeki, the middle-aged woman in charge who could be Kafka's mother, who abandoned him when he was a little boy. Meanwhile, back in Tokyo an old man called Nakata tries to find a missing calico cat called Goma. When he was an elementary school student during WWII, Nakata fell into a mysterious coma and woke up from it empty of memory, including the ability to read and write. He therefore receives a government subsidy for the mentally impaired, supplementing that income by finding lost cats, which is facilitated by his coma-granted ability to speak with felines.
In Kafka on the Shore (2002) Haruki Murakami suspensefully and entertainingly merges those two plot strands in chapters that alternate between the protagonists' points of view. And the novel, which begins mysteriously (Why is Kafka running away? Why is Kafka his alias? Why does he hate his father? Why did his mother run off with his sister and leave him behind? Who exactly is the boy called Crow? Is the young woman he meets on the bus his sister? What is Oshima's story? What happened to Nakata when he was a boy? Can he really speak with cats? What is his connection to Kafka? Etc.), is also at first quirkily charming. But it darkens, like a bright dream of flight morphing into a nightmare in which you commit terrible acts and are pursued and prodded by strange forces and fates beyond your will. The novel remains funny throughout, but becomes ever-more thought-provoking, frightening, and moving.
Murakami relishes dismantling the boundary between reality and fantasy, waking and dreaming, the flesh and the spirit, which makes reading his books--like this one--a disorienting experience. On the one hand, his characters navigate a sea of cultural artifacts and signs that would seem to fix them (and us) in the real world, like Radiohead and Prince, Chunichi Dragons baseball caps and Nike tennis shoes, weight-lifting machines and routines, and Japanese noodles and omelets, and his characters perform everyday physical actions like eating, eliminating, washing, and sleeping. On the other hand, they may be led by a talking dog to a fancy house where a madman who is making a flute from the souls of cats asks them to do something awful, meet "concepts" who take the form of cultural icons like Colonel Sanders, wake up in strange places splattered with blood without having any idea of what happened, have sex with ghosts, dreamers, or spirits, or enter hermetic worlds outside time. That juxtaposition between the cultural and sensual and the fantastic and spiritual is one of the appeals of Murakami's fiction.
Finally, though, when Kafka on the Shore ended, I felt somehow disappointed. I felt partly that either I'm not smart enough or careful enough a reader to see all the loose ends tied up or that Murakami left some things a bit too vague. And I felt partly that Kafka is too precocious for 15, knows too much, is too capable, and that Murakami's device of demonstrating his youth by making him easily blush is too pat. When Kafka guesses that a piano sonata is by Schubert because it doesn't sound like one by Beethoven or Schumann, or sees that a man "has three days' worth of stubble on his face," or knows that a pair of soldiers from over 60 years ago are carrying Arisaka rifles, I am jarred from suspension of disbelief. As a result, when Kafka is plunging into a dense forest as he tries to whistle the complex tune of John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" until he reaches the piano solo by McCoy Tyner, I understand that Murakami is amplifying the labyrinth effect, but it strikes me that he's also showing off his cultural knowledge through an unconvincing vehicle.
And that made me think that, although most of the sex scenes in the novel are necessary for the story, for at least one Murakami seems to be indulging a desire to titillate, as when he has a university philosophy student "sex machine" girl perform oral sex on a truck driver while quoting and explaining concepts from Bergson and Hegel. The philosophical ideas tie in with things going on in the novel, but perhaps could have been communicated less raunchily.
All that said, I loved Nakata and was moved by his past and present, and enjoyed his relationship with the ignorant and feckless young truck driver Hoshino, whom I also came to like a lot. And I was intrigued and moved by Kafka's relationship with Oshima. And I am glad to have read Kafka on the Shore. It made me think about things like the ever-decreasing darkness in our modern city nights and the ever-present darkness in the human heart, the relationships between metaphors and the world, and the rooms of memory that we maintain because life consists of losing precious things. It also made me want to read "In the Penal Colony," The Tale of Genji, and The 1001 Nights and to listen to Beethoven's Archduke Trio, to eat broiled fish, and to try again to talk with a cat.
The readers are superb, especially Sean Barrett as Nakata and Hoshino. Listening to Barrett narrate Nakata's strange and sad childhood and life and then deliver Nakata's lines in his aged, diffident, and beautiful voice (as when he says, "Nakata is not very bright," or "Grilled eggplants and vinegared cucumbers are some of Nakata's favorites," or especially "I felt them, through your hands") was very moving. And Oliver Le Sueur is a convincing Kafka, ultra bright, sincere, and thoughtful.
I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it.
Kafka on the Shore was my second Haruki Murakami novel, which I sought out after 1Q84. These two stories are extremely different, but many of the undercurrents are the same.
The story alternates between two voices; that of Kafka, the young boy with no family ties he feels he can call his own - and Nakata, the older, simple man who is the "Finder of Lost Cats". We track the slow progress of both of these characters through their individual journeys and challenges, and patiently wait with faith for the time when their paths will converge.
This book is not for all people. It's nonsensical, surreal, and sometimes patently bizarre. There will be many events left completely unexplained, and story lines left uncompleted. The novel requires a relinquishing of control, and an acceptance that in the end, some of the story will make sense, and some of it will not.
For those people who are willing and able to enjoy the journey - and let go of the destination - this book may end up being something that takes a hold of you, and and touches you with it's moments of kindness, vulnerability, and beauty.
Haruki Murakami is a fascinating and interesting writer and boy howdy is he preoccupied with his penis. I mean, his protagonist's penis. Penises in general. Every book of his I've read is penispenispenis.
But boy can he write. Kafka on the Shore is "magical realism," which as the old joke goes, is "fantasy when it's not written in English." More seriously, it's one of those books where otherworldly things happen that the reader is asked to simply accept. There is no explanation for how someone can exist simultaneously as an old man and a fifteen-year-old boy in order to be in two places at once, or why conceptual incarnations take the corporeal form of Colonel Sanders, or why Nakata can talk to cats.
Kafka Tamura is a teenager running away from his father's Oedipal prophecy. The voice in his head is a boy named Crow, who tells him he must become "the world's toughest fifteen-year-old." He takes up residence in a library overseen by a gender-bending librarian, encounters a woman who may be his mother and a girl who may be his sister, and screws both of them. It may be a dream. But Murakami describes every encounter in very corporeal detail. Penispenispenis!
Meanwhile, Nakata, an old man who was mentally damaged/traumatized by an event that happened to him at the end of the war but left with the ability to talk to cats, has to find a family's housecat and stop a cat serial killer. This leads to him becoming a fugitive, where he encounters a truck driver who joins him on his quest to find a stone, in a bizarre urban Japanese inversion of your typical fantasy quest.
Nakata's quest and Tamura's are linked, but the links are never clearly defined; indeed, it's not entirely clear how their two character arcs are connected at all, though they may be the same person.
If this review fails to convey much sense of the plot, it's because Murakami's plots are... really hard to describe. He throws a little bit of everything into the story. And lots of penis. But the prose is liquid and lyrical, even in translation, and the story carries you along like a rushing stream, batting you about so you're not quite sure where you are going but you at least have a vague sense that you are going somewhere. And where it dumps you, who can say?
I liked it. But it's weird. Like everything Murakami writes. And seriously, dude, enough with the penises.
I listened to this story more attentively than any other audible books I bought. It was so interesting that I just couldn't stop listening.
I loved this book. I listen to a wide variety of audio books but this one rates up there with the best. The readers did a wonderful job of bringing the book to life. This is one you can listen to many times and not get bored.