7 April 2019
This was Haruki Murakami’s second book I read (after ‘Norwegian Wood’), due to its wide popularity. Murakami is one of the pioneers in ‘Magical Realism’ genre, and this is evident in this book too. This is one of the best works of Murakami, an extremely engrossing tale of two central characters – a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who has run away from his home in search of his long-missing mother and sister or to escape an Oedipal prophecy. Another central character is named Nakata, who, in his own words, is ‘not so bright’. Both these characters, living their individual lives, their destinies are somehow entwined.
The book has brilliant instances of magical realism such as –
- Cats having conversations with people
- Colonel Sanders (of the KFC fame), appearing out of nowhere, employing a prostitute.
- World War II soldiers who have not aged
- Fish falling from the sky
- A murder where the identity of both the victim and murderer is a mystery
- A small stone so heavy, that a person can barely lift it
- Concepts of reincarnation and destiny
Murakami’s forte lies in using bizarre instances, simple but soul touching dialogues, interesting & quirky characters, to weave a magical tale. This novel is no different and is an absolutely crazy ride. If you’re picking this book, you should expect all this, and more. What I love about Murakami, is that the story almost always takes you beyond the normal bounds of human reality, into some sort of an alternate world where metaphysical magic happens!
For people who are new to Murakami’s style of writing, they might find a lot of events really random. And yes, they are random at times. Not denying that bit. But maybe, that’s the whole charm of his writing, where certain things happen which are totally unexpected.
‘Kafka on the Shore’ is a story about a fifteen-year-old teenager, who runs away from home. He decides to leave his home in order to find his lost mother and sister, but mostly, as it’s described in the book, to get away from his father. The father figure has been shown in a negative light, but not much into detail. His fate lands him to a distant town, where he meets a gay friend, who helps him through a big part of his journey. He also meets two exceptional women, who could have been his mother or sister, and ends up copulating with them. This is one phase of the story. Simultaneously, Murakami introduces you to a simpleton sexagenarian, Nakata, who has kind of lost his reasoning abilities in an incident which in some way is related to the extra-terrestrial. Nakata, although not so bright, has a weird gift of talking to cats and making fish fall from the sky. Somehow, Kafka and Nakata’s destinies are interconnected, and the whole book is about their journey. The book is extremely engrossing and entertaining. Now, as it usually happens with Murakami’s work, some of the questions have been left unanswered and some events have an open-ended interpretation. So, if you’re someone who likes straightforward stories, you might be disappointed on these fronts.
Favorite Quotes from the book:
- “Each person feels pain in his own way, each has his own scars.”
- “If you think God’s there, He is. If you don’t, He isn’t. And if that’s what God’s like, I wouldn’t worry about it.”
- “Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”
- “If you remember me, then I don't care if everyone else forgets.”
- “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library.”
- “Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.”
- “Listen up - there's no war that will end all wars.”
- “Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.”
- “Closing your eyes isn't going to change anything. Nothing's going to disappear just because you can't see what's going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That's the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won't make time stand still.”
- “Chance encounters are what keep us going.”
- “Being with her I feel a pain, like a frozen knife stuck in my chest. An awful pain, but the funny thing is I'm thankful for it. It's like that frozen pain and my very existence are one.”
- “It's hard to tell the difference between sea and sky, between voyager and sea. Between reality and the workings of the heart.”