Haruki Murakami is the David Lynch of literature; everything doesn’t always make sense, but it's so compelling you can't stop listening or trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. Such is the case with Murakami's mind-bending Kafka on the Shore, which follows the lives of 15-year-old Kafka and an old man named Nakata, who might be aspects of the same person...or maybe not. What we do know is that Kafka runs away from home to find his lost mother and sister and winds up living in a library in the seaside town of Takamatsu, where he spends his days reading literature. Then he's suspected of being involved in a murder. In alternating chapters, we also hear the story of Nakata, who makes a living as a "cat whisperer," searching for lost pets. He embarks on a road trip searching for a particularly hard to find cat, traveling far away from his home for the first time, and the narrative suggests he's fated to meet Kafka. But does he? Oh, and there's also truly bizarre appearances by Johnnie Walker and Colonel Sanders.
Oliver Le Sueur as Kafka and Sean Barrett as Nakata both give hypnotic readings of the main and supporting characters. Le Sueur performs double duty for Kafka and the teen's inner voice, Crow, reading with such gravitas that you might find yourself leaning forward a bit with expectancy for the next line of dialogue or intricate detail. Barrett's deep, warm voice is perfectly grandfatherly as Nakata, whose uncertain destination and deep wonder at the world he has never seen is the lynchpin of the novel. Barrett's voice is a national treasure in Britain – having voiced Shakespeare, Dickens, and Beckett – and you'll wish he narrated just about every book once you hear how he commits to Nakata.
As Kafka prepares to leave home, his alter ego tells the boy that he's about to enter a metaphysical and symbolic storm. "Once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through – how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure if the storm is over, but one thing is certain – when you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in." That can also be said of any listener who chooses to explore Murakami's beautiful, enigmatic world. Collin Kelley
Murakami's new novel is at once a classic tale of quest, but it is also a bold exploration of mythic and contemporary taboos, of patricide, of mother-love, of sister-love. Above all it is an entertainment of a very high order.
©2005 Haruki Murakami; (P)2005 Naxos Audiobooks
"I've never read a novel that I found so compelling because of its narrative inventiveness and love of storytelling....Great entertainment." (Guardian)
"An insistently metaphysical mind-bender." (The New Yorker)
"Daringly original and compulsively readable." (The Washington Post's Book World)
This was an unusual listen. I really quite like it for a while: the man who could talk to cats and some of the other characters were quite engrossing. I just never quite felt I got the point, feeling perhaps a bit of a cultaural divide.
This was the first time I read (listened) to Murakami. An interesting story with touches of the absurd, which was appropriate given that "Kafka" is in the title. I found it beautifully written but not over-the-top-literary. I'd recommend this book to anyone who doesn't mind a bit of the absurd, who can just go with the story and not get stuck on whether it could really happen (hey, it's fiction!), and who enjoys a good turn of a phrase & insightful description.
The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was one of the narrators. I thought one could have done a much better job (on occasion, I had a hard time knowing which character was speaking.) Other than that, I recommend it.
A difficult book, no doubt about it. I am still trying to understand what it was all about.
It reminded me a little of a Hayao Miyazaki movie, peopled with eccentric characters; a deep underlying mythology; (perhaps a Shinto/Buddist world view?) and multiple layers of meaning.
I felt that the themes were esoteric rather than philisophical. I may be wrong, but I think it was all about the nature of time and the machinery of existance, fate, meaning and resolution.
4 Stars because it was deeply affecting. The characters got under my skin, but it was not
light entertainment.I frequently took long breaks from my listening to catch a breath and settle my throbbing head.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I raced through this title, just as I did the first time I read it. It is such a wonderful piece of prose, come poetry that it keeps you returning to its words.
I was first introduced to Murakami (Norwegian Wood) by a good friend and I loved his work from the first page. Because it is like poetry, you can read it (or in this case, listen to it) over, and over again. For me it captures the very essence of a paradigm Japanese skill of beautiful understatement, whether that is in art, in haiku, in arrangement of flower or furniture or in the written word. I can almost hear the soft trickle of water in the background and feel the calming presence of space. Perhaps the shortage of space has helped grow the appreciation for the smallest serving of it. Murakami is like an oriental (in the literal sense) Rushdie.
The plot is complex, but not complex.
Dealing with the latter state first, in substance this is a tale about a boy on the verge of manhood, his adolescent brush with authority (his father), his search for a missing presence in his life (his estranged mother and sister), and to find the hidden beauty that is before him, but which he is struggling so be interpreted.
In the former state, we have a Cat Whisperer, the refugee of a bizarre incident toward the end of WW2, looking for a cat, the wonderful imaginary world of the boy's alter ego, Crow, and the unveiling of a gruesome murder . All of these pieces fit together, sometimes in the most unconventional way, but never in a way that makes you want to throw out the fantastical because you want the facts to prevail.
I love this book. I could listen to it again, immediately; like a loop on an old reel to reel recording. In large part this is the work of the author, but it could so easily have been lost or abused in the telling. Fortunately, it was reproduced, it seems, with love and care. Oliver Le Sueur is terrifically paced as the boy and his alter ego, with a few bit parts in between. Sean Barrett is at his best as the Whisperer. There are some cameo voices for some particular one chapter characters which are appropriate too, and add to the overall performance. I would have given it a perfect score all round but for the transfer. In parts it is a bit soft, so I'd turn up the sound to max' and leave it there. Even then, in parts this quiet added to the atmosphere.
Overall, if you like lyrical, imaginative literature, I think you'll love this.
I read this after reading Hardboiled Wonderland which I liked more in the end. Both of these novels are magical, though, and there's no question that Murakami has a vision of the world that grabs you and keeps you coming back. This one seemed a bit more calculating to me, but I think I'm in the minority and that most people prefer this to Hardboiled Wonderland.
The parts about Nakata talking to cats -- which all come early -- are stunning. He's a gentle and memorable character although I am not entirely comfortable either with Murakami's implied origin for him or with what he later becomes.
Those are small points, though, and I see a lot to love in the novel.
Kafka was a little bit of a conundrum for me. The plot was exciting and had me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out where things would go next. I was waiting with bated breath to see how the parallel story lines were going to collide. But there was a lot that was distracting. Some of the Dialogue, especially where Oshima is concerned, is very amateurish and hardly compelling. The know-it-all assertions he makes are not sufficiently intelligent or supported as to be satisfactory. The plot was rich enough without the rabbit hole conversations which, frankly, caused me to put down the book and only return to it for curiosity’s sake. I struggled with the obvious evidence of Murakumi’s mastery that was coexisted with some very clumsy choices. The parallel stories borrowed elements from each other, but often as an exercise in checking boxes. Kafka’s preoccupation with his private parts is something I could have done without.
All in all, I believe the book could have benefited from a good editing... which saddens me given how wonderful the storyline was.
I recommend this book to a patient reader.
If you are a Murakami lover, you know that this is not a simple, conventional story. It's a wonderful insight into his mind. I've read the book; however, the audio adds nuance and depth to the characters and story.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
A lot of people get really excited about the work of Haruki Murakami. I can see why. Maybe if I were a generation or two younger I would get excited too. There are a lot of similar themes here to what is found in numerous anime series and manga. Cosmic forces, mysterious characters, magical realism, all leading up to some huge existential climax. But when have any of them ever delivered on that climax? Clearly, the way Murakami handles it must be satisfying to a lot of people. And Murakami clearly believes he is giving his readers more than enough material to work with. Don't get me wrong. I'm OK with a lot ambiguous endings and I don't expect authors to deliver the meaning of the universe on a silver platter. However, after a certain age, certain issues (like coming of age stuff) just don't have the same interest that they did earlier on. More than that, there were certain things that I expected to come together that just didn't. Key story lines that I expected to intersect never really did. Key characters that expected would eventually interact never did. Characters that I found the most interesting were left hanging in favor of other characters that I found a bit boring and superficial. Some storylines were left unnecessarily vague, IMHO. Still, the first 90% was sufficiently entertaining. Whether the ending will seem satisfying is up for debate.
"Philosophical addictive reading"
It was my first Murakami book. I liked how the author interweaves plot with little essays on music, memory, what constitutes us. The story gets more magical and abstract with every chapter. During listening I could identify myself with a boy.
"Captivating novel by Murakami!"
Like in other works by Murakami, I got sucked into the story almost instantly, and I loved every second of it. I always enjoy the way Murakami paints a scenery, or describes his characters. Would absolutely recommend this, and other Murakami books, to people who love to think about out of the ordinary kind of things.
I was recommended this by a friend who 'warned me that it was different'. It was but in such a great way. original, brilliant story with intermingling ones. Unique and creative. The writing was beautiful.
"Very Japanese ."
I need to listen to it again and concentrate more . A lovely journey, metaphorical indeed.
What a beautiful book. It's the calm pace of Murakami's story telling and the other worldly quirks that make them so captivating and special. Loved it and didn't want it to end. I could have spent double the time with Kafka and still not tired of him.
"Stunning - a Masterpiece in Storytelling"
Playful, multi-genre and elegant.
Satoru Nakata's confrontation with Johnnie Walker and subsequent confusion.
Satoru Nakata - or Hoshino- lovely characterisations.
Haruki Murakami. A spirited, playful writer whose stories are like origami, beautiful but exact, simple but mysterious. Many levels of reality simultaneously give you the feeling you can hop from one level to another at will. Which means you can infinitely interpret to your heart's content.
Kafka on the Shore is a masterpiece.
He's also multi-genre:
in one book we have humour, drama, romance, suspense and horror. Like Stephen King in his talent, but much more elegant.
This is a stunning book. I'm nearing the conclusion. Fortunately, he's written more!
"What was this about?"
Do you need to be either Japanese or have an in depth knowledge of Japanese mythology and culture to understand this book? I am not, don't and I didn't. Good narration. I could cope with the sadistic torture, just. But I couldn't accept the story at its basic level let alone understand where it might have been coming from.
I'm not into fantasy and resisted the idea of Murukami's strange alternative worlds for a long time, but the audiobooks of his novels and especially Kafka have totally hooked me. The narration is wonderful and the characters especially Nakata are so engaging that you suspend all disbelief. Moreover, it's a great introduction to other Japanese literature - I'm now going to read some of the Japanese classics that are mentioned in Kafka - and listen to the music that is mentioned. I've now listened through three times and keep getting more out of it - and yes, it is also so soothing that it works a treat for 3 am wakefulness.
"Deep and full of questions"
I discovered Murakami through 1Q84, which although interesting, I found ultimately annoying as there were too many questions unanswered at the end. This book also leaves many questions, but they're the sort that couldn't be answered easily. A mix of the supernatural and the real, with complex characters and a plot that draws you in, a deeply satisfying book. The two main narrators are excellent and the characterisation is perfect. If there's one little annoyance it is that the two narrators pronounce names differently, but you get used to it quickly. Highly recommended.
"An unsettling and reassuring "read""
Expertly read, this title is a work of depth, of feelings and mysterious events, all tied together in an intricate and often grotesque - yet somehow completely believable - fabric.
Lots of references to works of art - literature and music - but always to nudge the reader deeper into the mysteries of the human heart and of life itself.
I am glad I chose to listen to this title. Murakami does not spare us the horrific cruelty that is all too often part of man, but he abundantly makes up for it through his love for his characters. I very rarely shed tears over books, but this one did it. It has enriched me.
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