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.
One of the best I've read in awhile. It takes place in Japan, which gave me a glimpse of modern day Japanese life. It's just like ours. Characters are finding their selves and their past with a little supernatural help.
A weird book of magical realism, full of disturbing symbolism and metaphor.
15-year-old Tamura runs away from home, taking on the name Kafka, after the Russian author, as an alias. Not quite sure how to make it on his own, a young woman he meets on the train helps him, and then he finds refuge in a small, private library, where the clerk becomes a friend, and the librarian, an older woman, is strangely alluring. But soon, his trouble is more than he thought it would be, when he hears on the news that his wealthy father has been found violently murdered, and he is a suspect.
Gradually, it becomes clear that this is a retelling of the story of Oedipus, who was cursed to kill his father and sleep with his mother - and some difficult realizations seem inevitable.
Interwoven with this story is that of Nakata, an elderly, brain-damaged man who has the ability to talk to cats. Someone seems to be stealing neighborhood cats, and his search for a missing animal leads him to a sinister figure who goes about in the guise of advertising characters, and who tries to force Nakata into an act of horrific violence...
Metaphysical and philosophical, this is a very interesting book, but personally, not my favorite by Murakami.
Very surreal but wonderful story. The characters are endearing, the events magical and the settings transport you, at times, to a beautiful place. It is told back and forth between the tragic, but gifted Nakata's life and purpose and the 15-year-old runaway calling himself "Kafka" and the people he encounters as he tries to find his way to his life and purpose. Funny, sad, strange, sweet and moving. An enjoyable journey!
It was a Haruki Murakami moment. Here I was at Diedrich Coffee, releasing books, and what do I find on the shelf? Kafka on the Shore. The same book I'm currently reading. And, as I am leaving, I observe a group of young people playing Scrabble on the patio. I stop to talk to them a minute and one of them says, "Hey, is that Kafka on the Shore you have there? Great book."
Surreal, yet oddly appropriate.
I loved reading this book even though I had no idea where it was taking me and no idea where I was going.
Another beautiful Murakami novel that seamlessly intertwines the coming of age story of a 15 year old runaway with a old man who became "not very smart" after a childhood accident which left him able to talk to cats. Their lives are twisted together by epic journeys, historical events and the paranormal. If you love Murakami, this will not dissapoint.