Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ Umibe no Kafuka)



            Since it was first published in 2002, “Kafka on the Shore” has been highly regarded. It follows two separate but interconnected stories. In one, a 15 year-old boy who calls himself “Kafka Takamura” runs away from his dismal Tokyo life and the tyrannical rule of his father. Kafka hopes to find his mother who abandoned him when he was very young, taking along his adopted sister. The second follows Nakata, an old man who was rendered mentally retarded after a mysterious accident in his youth. The accident cause Nakata to lose most of his mental faculties, but gave him the ability to speak to cats. The two soon become embroiled in the bizarre occurrences Murakami is known for. Kafka finds his father’s oedipal prophecy coming true. Nakata’s simple life falls apart after meeting a mysterious man who calls himself “Johnnie Walker.”
            This was not one of my favorite of Murakami’s books. That’s not to say it wasn't good. “Kafka on the Shore” is a page-turner, with plenty of the magical realism, bizarre circumstances, and genre-melting madness that makes him one of the most dynamic and important writers of our age. It is, as many critics have noted, a kind of modern-day Greek tragedy. It also has strong metaphysical, science fiction, and romantic tendencies. I am a great lover of genre-breaking. There is also a good amount of suspense. Things seem to pop up out of nowhere, each more bizarre than the next.
 However, I was rather let down by the ending. Most of the book was held together by a feeling of dread. The two plots will be resolved and when they do it seems like it could only be traumatic and fantastical. However in this case it felt like there were still too many questions left to be answered. Kafka’s story in particular left something to be desired.
            Hardcore fans of Murakami will enjoy this novel immensely. However, I would not recommend it for first time readers.

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