- Title: Kafka on the Shore
- Author: Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (Translator)
- Genre: Literature, Fantasy
- Format: Paperback
- Source: Own Copy
- Reviewer: Soo
- Rating: 4 out of 5
Description: Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle – yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
Review: I admit my cynical side was out in full armor when I took a gander at this book. I’m not a huge fan of Asian to English translations due to the many errors that can be very easily made. Heck! Of the four books recommended to me, I really thought that I would end up reading this book last. Instead, Kafka on the Shore ran neck to neck with Borges’ Labyrinths and I truly enjoyed reading them both.
In simplified terms, one of the main parts of the story is about a boy who renames himself Kafka, and leaves his home to forge a life for himself at the age of fifteen. One could also say that the book is about the elderly man, Nakata, and his mystical mission that pulled the story forward and created a big part of the story actions. Alternate worlds, parallel realities, ghosts, purgatory, fantasies turned life or life turned into dreams, soul searching, tragic circumstances compounding tragedies, and how very simple things can be either beautiful or horrific depending on the situation.
Some of the writing is simply beautiful, many of the descriptions create vivid imagery, emotions are described in a way that is easily grasped, the key characters are all too smart for their own good, and the story is full of well placed ideas that underline the entirety of the book and drives the path of the characters created within.
If you like thought provoking stories that create vivid imagery–you’ll like this book. But if you don’t like psychology, theology, or philosophy–this book may read like a hodge-podge of goo that has no lasting substance.