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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

Kafka on the Shore follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at 15, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down. Their parallel odysseys are enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerising dramas. Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghostlike pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle.

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

Critic Reviews

  • World Fantasy Award, 2006

"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)

What members say

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Brilliant Meandering--what was in those brownies..

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 may "find" something that isn't even really there at all.

37 of 37 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • Raleigh, NC, USA
  • 08-20-07


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.

26 of 26 people found this review helpful

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fantastic narration

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.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Victor
  • Fort Lupton, CO, USA
  • 04-20-09

The boy named Crow

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.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Jersey City, NJ, United States
  • 12-02-08

Dream Convergence

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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A Sensual, Metaphysical, and Entertaining Fantasy

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.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Amanda
  • Phoenix, AZ, United States
  • 04-21-12

A Hypnotic and Compelling Dream-Like Journey

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.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Ikue
  • Saratoga, CA, USA
  • 11-30-06

very interesting!

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.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Kelley
  • great bend, KS, United States
  • 11-14-07

Loved it!

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.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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must-read one

Excellent book plus talented narration makes this recording outstanding. Surely, a must-read one!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Clare
  • 07-24-08

A new dimension of fiction and sleep

I always find it hard deciding which titles to make my next listen as I like the idea of listening to something relatively unknown to me. This time I decided to search by Narrator as I tend to get quite attached to them given that they are always the last voice I hear in my ear before drifting off to sleep each night.

I?d recently listened to Troubles by J.G Farrell, superbly narrated by Sean Barrett so it was him that led me to Kafka on the Shore and what a treat it is. I love this book, it?s like entering a whole new world of fiction. It?s like going on a wonderful mysterious journey and having absolutely no idea what?s around the next corner. There's no formula here, no expected outcomes. I was worried before I started that it may be a bit too off par for me, but maybe its the way its written or narrated I?m not sure, but somehow Haruki Murakami makes some very unusual events such as a man capable of talking to cats seem completely acceptable and not at all distracting.

The only problem (if you can call it a problem) with this book is that it does have quite a soothing effect and is somewhat dreamlike so it may take you longer than you?d hoped to finish it but you?ll have plenty of good sleep in the process!

41 of 43 people found this review helpful

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  • Stephen
  • 07-18-10

Simply wonderful.

I can honestly say I was absolutely bowled over by this book. I had never read any Murakami before and this came as an utter delight and surprise. It is an extraordinary mix of all sorts of genres, but is ultimately nothing like anything else I have read. It is intellectually and emotionally thoroughly satisfying, ad well as having a totally gripping plot. The two readers are wonderful, and I suspect this is even better to listen to, than to read on the page. I envy anyone who has not read this book, because the journey ahead of you is truly wonderful.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Tony
  • 06-21-13

The surreal world of Murakami

What did you like most about Kafka on the Shore?

I've enjoyed a few Murakami books now, I love them all for the surreal view he gives into the world. I come away from each book feeling like the real world might be a facade to some underlying game that this author pulls the curtain back on.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The main self named Kafka character is the toughest 15 year old on the planet, and what an odd planet. So many odd things happen to him, but he keeps it all together. I could read another book on his life now, it feels like as the book starts he has a back story that should be written somewhere else.

Any additional comments?

Murakami as an Author seems to enter the same odd world in each of his books. They each feel like a puzzle that is hinting at a larger truth, and I love each glimpse, but in-between I read something trashy to take away the feeling of oddness! Can't recommend more.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Peter
  • 06-19-09

Strange other-worldly trip.

Two storylines entwined in alternate chapters that come together at the end. Very difficult to describe what happens in the story as it is very surreal, but it definitely keeps you interested throughout. Do not expect a complete explanation of everything that happens in this book - it leaves a lot of puzzles for the reader/listener to mull over and from talking to people who have also read it, it seems some points of interpretation are particularly personal. For this reason, the open strands of the story work very well which is a tribute to the author?s deft manipulation of the storyline and the reader. Do not be put off if you like 'closed' stories - I do too, but in this case I make an exception as it was so well done. This was my first HM but won't be my last.

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Baskeyfield
  • 07-25-09

A delight.

From being initially unconvinced by the narrators voice (I am particularly picky on this, which is why this was my first choice - as a few of the others had more American clich? accents), it certainly grew on me. The characters come alive so beautifully that it really is completely immersing. This is the first Murakami novel I have listened to, and it certainly won't be my last. It's a wonderful entwining story which bounces around between so bitterly real and amazingly fantastical ideas, and yet flows so well.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Leya
  • 07-29-13


This is the first novel by Murakami that I have experienced, and there is no doubting Murakami's talent as a narrator but after some 200 pages one begins to ask oneself where his skills have led him and us. I suppose one way of reading this sort of magical realist text is to assume that the happenings it describes are in someone's mind and not necessarily part of any human history, actual or imagined. Or one might think of each chapter as a sort of thought experiment dealing with such topics as abandonment, incest, murder, the life of cats etc. Certainly, Murakami's philosophical moments are fun...

But somehow the whole does not add up, especially as the ending is rather weak hence the 3 stars. I would be wary of recommending this book, as I think that his style is probably an acquired taste - but I will definitely try out another of his novels.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Victoria Elizabeth
  • 05-31-15

Strange and captivating

Any additional comments?

Loved this. HM writes so differently to any other author I've come across, it's beautifully refreshing. His story telling just draws me in - the characters come to life, he breathes so much reality into them; which seems absolutely bizarre when also considering the surreal world he actually creates the characters in...
The narrators for this book are perfect. Although their tone and the dreamlike nature of much of the story did send me off to sleep a few times, which isn't too bad a thing, nice and restful!
If you've not tried HM before, go for it, you're in for a wonderful experience.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Moose Molloy
  • 05-02-07

Not much time for this but....

Not really a review more a rave. I think Murukami works even better on audio than on the page. Not all authors do - but if you've ever been even slightly hypnotised by an author's style, then surely this book will do it to you as well.

I tend to listen somewhere in between dreaming and waking - and Kafka on the Shore fills that space entirely.

Once aquired, the taste of Murakami is unbeatable.

29 of 34 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 11-07-10

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.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan
  • 12-24-12

Bizarre tale

I gave this 4 stars because it was narrated really well and was quite compelling but I have to admit It was a bit alternative for me and I don't really know what some of it was about. Too many sub plots and too contrived I think.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • 09-21-17


narration was awesome, wonderfully paired to the characters in the book. amazing story as always by murakami.

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  • Vanessa
  • 07-21-17

Fascinating characters, familiar feel yet mystical

I'm new to Murakami's novels and the magical realism genre. something about this book feels familiar, the way he describes reality is spot on, lots of interesting philosophy, endearing characters especially Hoshino the truck driver and Nakata the old man who can talk to cats. I wanted to know these people in person. then on top of this the mystic and magical which keeps you wondering. so different from anything I've read. i loved it. will be reading more Murakami after this.

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  • Ryan
  • 07-03-16

Very intriguing

Starts a bit slow, but slowly climbs in fascination and lots of unanswered questions at the end. It was a great read.

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  • Ben
  • 04-22-16

A wonderful journey

Heavy in impact and light in prose. Murakami entices reflection and allows you to develop deep connections with all of the characters. I guess that this describes all great novels. A dash of mystic fantasy and mega metaphors

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  • Simon
  • 04-09-16

mesmerizing. weird but hard to put down.

great book and well read. tge whole strange story sort of makes sense by the end.

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  • Barnacles
  • 09-02-15

perhaps I'm missing something

I gave this a couple of hours but it drove me nuts. I couldn't relate to any characters, and the narrative seemed bizarre. this was my first murakami, and this may well be a stylistic thing that just isn't for me. this was the first audiobook I couldn't finish, though and wish I'd spend those hours listening to something else. the performance was fine.

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  • Michael
  • 03-15-15

An Audiobook Can Be Better Than Reading

This is a great novel with some very thought-provoking philosophical ideas. But it is a large book and I think it could be heavy going to try to read it, especially as it moves back and forth between time periods. As great as the book is, I think I might not have persevered in reading the book. And yet I was enthralled by the audiobook - so easy to listen to and much easier to follow the story line. I love audiobooks but this one is an example of an audiobook being better than the printed page. It was my first encounter with this author and it won't be my last .. but I will prefer audiobooks.

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  • Michael
  • 01-03-15

Surreal but brilliant

The story will not suit all tastes, but if you are willing to go along with the magic realism this is a profound and entertaining listen. It helps that the narration for it is probably the best I have heard on audible so far.