Book Review: Kafka On the Shore

Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not long before, one of my facebook friends posted a photo of a bag, full of Haruki's novels and expressed his excitement. Though I have heard of Haruki before, I never had the chance to go through his books. I zoomed in the picture and noted the books' names. There were five books namely Norwegian Woods, Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore, 1Q84 and Dance Dance Dance. Not long after that, the voracious readers I know in twitter posted about 1Q84 and his other books praising the author. Right then, I knew that the outer force was conspiring to exacerbate my situation. I had to buy Murakami's books or else I would not have been at peace.

Of all the books, I chose the thinnest book 'After Dark'. All other books were somehow thick and all I wanted to do was pick the book which was least talked on. I never saw/read the hype about After Dark. Hence, I wanted to know Murakami through his not so famous book (especially at my part of the world). Though I did not find the plot fascinating, the style lured me. The way he weaved his story was something to adore. Thus, started the love for Murakami. Subsequently, I bought 'Kafka On the Shore'.

Kafka On the Shore, written by Haruki Murakami and translated by Philip Gabriel, originally published on 2002 is a book based on surreal events and characters. The ride from the UFOs to the spectral worlds will only take the readers to the land of ecstasy. This is a story of mainly two characters. First, a certain 15 year old boy, name changed to Kafka, (abandoned by his mother with his sister) runs away from his sculptor father’s home seeking freedom. He winds up in Shikoku from his home town Tokyo where only Sakura, the girl he met in the train, is less stranger to him. She helps him now and then when he bumps into trouble as they both take one another as siblings separated on childhood. Kafka finds solace in the private library of Shikoku where the cross-gender librarian, Oshima, and its cryptic owner, Miss Saeki, provide him the much needed employment and roof to stay. The other part begins with Nakata, an enigmatic character who along with his school group encountered mysterious accident which made them lose their consciousness in the Shikoku Mountain while collecting mushrooms. All of them recovered after several hours except for Nakata. He remains unconscious for many weeks before waking up as a not so bright person but with the ability to talk to cats. Though, the story starts with these characters completely independent to each other, it muddles the readers how their events, time and space come to meet.

As the story rolls, Kafka falls in love with younger Miss Saeki (the ghost of her older self) who comes to his room in the library every night. One thing leads to another and Kafka makes physical relationship with older Miss Saeki who turns out to be his mother. At the other end, Nakata meets Kafka’s father in the course of his job as a finder of lost cats. Nakata is coerced to kill him as Kafka’s father turned out to be the cat killer. Consequently, Kafka is wanted by police as he has been missing and his father is murdered. To elude the investigation, Oshima takes Kafka to the secret place in the mountains where Kafka finds the semi-real world deep in its forest. Nakata, on the other end, tries to get himself arrested for murder but is dismissed by the cop taking him as an abnormal fellow. Subsequently, Nakata follows his psychic urge and starts his journey towards the west. He meets the truck-driver, Hiroshimo, who helps him in his unusual hunt. And this is where the two stories merge and give birth to this beautiful novel.

Haruki Murakami has been successful to keep the readers glued at this novel. There are no dull moments and until the half one cannot sense how the two stories are related to each other. In that regard, the reader has to be patient. Once the two strands start to relate, the novel gains the speed and keeps the readers at the edge. Overall, it is an exciting read. If you are a fan of surrealism, you are going to love this book.






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