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)
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.
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.
"Great Production of a Fascinating Story."
The reasons I bought this title was that it popped up on the screen while I was searching for one of Franz Kafka's books. I count myself very lucky that I stumbled upon it.
It tells the story of a 15 year old boy who runs away from home. Although there is endless scope in what could lie in front of him the book mainly deals with the complicated past of the boy and those around him. I found the story fascinating, compelling, surreal and endlessly enjoyable.
The production seems perfect to me. Even though I am listening to the voice of an adult his tone and pace match the writers style to convince me; at every corner, that it is the story of a 15 year old boy. Yes a 15 year old boy without much childhood left, thrown into a strange world of older people and there difficult pasts, but a 15 year old none-the-less. Indeed, the toughest 15 year old in the world.
"Murakami at his best"
Unmissable for any Murakami fan, beautifully read, it is a must have. It is the only one where I feel the narration does the book justice.
"surreal as ever"
I find Murakami a bit hit and miss sometimes captivating and sometimes a little dull. This novel has elements of both but is as ever worth the work to get through. Great story and characters that draw you into their world and make you want to see it through.
Kafka on the Shore is a book of Joy, Ease and Lightness. It is deep, meaningful, witty and intelligent. Above all, the narrators are simply wonderful. The voices are hypnotic and tender, they are clear and concise. Kafka on the Shore is an unforgetable piece of storytelling - an audiobook of the highest quality.
"My first Murakami"
Having never read any of the Murakami oeuvre, I decided to go for an audiobook and what a pleasant surprise! The narration is excellent. Indeed, it made me then go and purchase 'hard copy' A Wild Sheep Chase... with the phenomenon of hearing the Kafka On The Shore narration in this novel. Both the audiobook and the novel are superb.
"The Best of Murakami?"
If you know the work of Haruki Murakami and have not yet tried ?Kafka on the Shore? then you are in for a real treat ? better even more enjoyable than 'Norwegian Wood' in my view. If you are not familiar with Murakami?s work then you are in for an even bigger treat ? once you have worked your way carefully through the first chapter the narrative starts to fly and will capture you as it did me. This strong and unique vein of modern Japanese writing is one of the best discoveries that I have made in the last few years and has enriched my reading beyond measure.
"Not my cup of tea"
A story with mystical themes, with two stories being told alongside each other in alternating chapters. I found the story of the 15 year old tedious, he didn't feel like a teenager. This is the first of this author I've read and I don't think it's for me. I did read that it makes more sense if you've read Norwegian Wood and other novels by the author. Sadly I'm glad it's over.
"My first Murakami (but not my last)"
I've not read the print version of this edition which is probably just as well as I listen on my commute and driving and reading are not recommended.
I found this story to be magical in it's subject, the way it drew me in to know what was happening, the way things, events, coincidences were left unexplained. I found the idea of cats that talk to be lovely and the way the death of the father engineered to be so neat (but how???) (well never mind that.... it served the purpose).
It's difficult to say which character was my favourite, when a particular character was speaking that was my favourite as I was intimately bound up in the story and the progression of the narrative, however on balance I think Mr Nakata to be enchanting but that's probably more a result of his cat communication. Even the subsidiary characters are there for a good reason, all of them with wisdom to dispense.
I couldn't manage all of this in one sitting. It's a dense book with multiwoven strands that needs thinking about afterwards (and three weeks later I'm still thinking about it).
This was my first Murakami, I think it was so well written and had such an effect on me that I want to save future ones for when I have time to really listen, concentrate, analyse and just plain think about the book. Murakami seems to be, from this one exposure, a sumptuous feast of a writer that needs multiple visits to the table.
"Surreal and fascinating"
I loved this book. It's my first by this author and I will definitely look for more titles by him. The storyline was maintained, with some pauses and roundabouts along the way but they only added to the mystery. This might be called a psychological drama with science fiction/fantasy overtones, set in the real and gritty world of modern Japan, with a seasoning of old folk tales and a slight touch of mysticism. Allow yourself to go with the flow and enjoy to the end.
Again, the reader was spectacular - all accents and characters were well-defined and added immensely to my enjoyment.
My first audiobook ever! Really recommend Audible app. The first book you get free and then you can continue listening to your fav books by paying around £8-9per a book. The quality of the recording is excellent!
So, Kafka on the shore... Amazing writing, or I'd add translation. Mysterious characters, true love and bizarre events are blended together and you get a wonderful book to read (or listen) during the summer. #HarukiMurakamu# I'd thank people who actually were reading the story, it was considerably well paced with certain intonation and pauses. Great job!
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