Thursday, 13 November 2014

Kafka On The Shore - Review

AUTHOR: Haruki Murakami
ISBN: 978-0-099-45832-6
GENRE: Speculative Fiction


Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father's dark prophecy. 

The ageing Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down.

As their parallel odysseys unravel, cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghost-like pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since World War II. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle- one of many which combine to create an elegant and dreamlike masterpiece.


You read one book by the author; you either get hooked to them or vow to not read them again. Murakami has me mystified, my first was Norwegian Wood and this is my second. To say that both the books are out of the world and amazing would be an understatement. Partly because they both are so very contrasting in the way they've been written. The former having a taste of realistic-ness while this book is all metaphysical, illusory and self-bounding transporting you to a world of dreams.

"Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”  - Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore follows the parallel plot that moves towards a common goal at the same time, interlinked together. It's a story of a 15-year old teenage boy Kafka Tamura hailing from Nakano Ward who runs away from home from his self-absorbed father to Takamatsu, Shikoku; seeking shelter in a quiet private library. At the same time an ageing old not so bright man named Nakata who has the unique ability to converse with cats, goes on a mission to finding a missing cat and eventually predicts fishes and leeches falling from the sky. Weird isn't it?

The novel is inspired by the Oedipus mythology, or rather the dark Oedipal Curse that Kafka's father inflicts on him. 

"The term Oedipus complex (or, less commonly, Oedipal complex) denotes the emotions and ideas that the mind keeps in the unconscious, via dynamic repression, that concentrates upon a child's desire to have sexual relations with the parent of the opposite sex ."

Like every other Murakami novel there is beer and sex with the addition of blood, lots of blood in this one. The journey of Kafka and how he shifts from his conscious to unconscious mind with a lot of theories, philosophies, Japanese literature the Soseki haiku's  and concerto music like Schubert and Schumann accompanying us. It takes you to a magical realm full of depth that forces you to think.

The best thing about the novel is the way it is written, it flows seamlessly transporting you to a land of illusions and dreams. It's compelling in the most primal form and pulls you within. And despite being so addictive you cannot read this in one sitting, you need to read re-read and sometimes take a break. 

Now comes the cons, they are not cons in the real sense but they are, if you know what I mean. The book is full of riddles. No doubt riddles are fascinating but these they left me in a lurch. An excerpt from the writer's own words goes as,

"In an interview posted on his English language website, Murakami says that the secret to understanding the novel lies in reading it several times: "Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren't any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It's hard to explain, but that's the kind of novel I set out to write".
A complex novel no doubt, there are things that I re-read (I could not read the whole novel again 505 pages you see). It's the kind of novel that stays with you, for a long long time. 
A must read if you love quality fiction !

RATING: 9.5/10
PRICE: Rs. 349
BINDING: Paperback
PAGES: 505


  1. The book has been on my wish list from a long time. Itching to get my hands on them after reading the post.

    1. You should, it's amazing. One of the best by Murakami !