Pub. Date:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Kafka on the Shore / Edition 1

Kafka on the Shore / Edition 1

by Haruki Murakami
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Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.

Here we meet a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run, and Nakata, an aging simpleton who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, acclaimed author Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder, in what is a truly remarkable journey.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 2901400079277
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/03/2006
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and the most recent of his many honors is the Yomiuri Literary Prize, whose previous recipients include Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Kobo Abe.


Tokyo, Japan

Date of Birth:

January 12, 1949

Place of Birth:

Kyoto, Japan


Waseda University, 1973

Read an Excerpt

Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home. I take a small, old gold lighter--I like the design and feel of it--and a folding knife with a really sharp blade. Made to skin deer, it has a five-inch blade and a nice heft. Probably something he bought on one of his trips abroad. I also take a sturdy, bright pocket flashlight out of a drawer. Plus sky blue Revo sunglasses to disguise my age.

I think about taking my father's favorite Sea-Dweller Oyster Rolex. It's a beautiful watch, but something flashy will only attract attention. My cheap plastic Casio watch with an alarm and stopwatch will do just fine, and might actually be more useful. Reluctantly, I return the Rolex to its drawer.

From the back of another drawer I take out a photo of me and my older sister when we were little, the two of us on a beach somewhere with grins plastered across our faces. My sister's looking off to the side so half her face is in shadow and her smile is neatly cut in half. It's like one of those Greek tragedy masks in a textbook that's half one idea and half the opposite. Light and dark. Hope and despair. Laughter and sadness. Trust and loneliness. For my part I'm staring straight ahead, undaunted, at the camera. Nobody else is there at the beach. My sister and I have on swimsuits--hers a red floral-print one-piece, mine some baggy old blue trunks. I'm holding a plastic stick in my hand. White foam is washing over our feet.

Who took this, and where and when, I have no clue. And how could I have looked so happy? And why did my father keep just that one photo? The whole thing is a total mystery. I must have been three, my sister nine. Did we ever really get along that well? I have no memory of ever going to the beach with my family. No memory of going anywhere with them. No matter, though--there is no way I'm going to leave that photo with my father, so I put it in my wallet. I don't have any photos of my mother. My father had thrown them all away.

After giving it some thought I decide to take the cell phone with me. Once he finds out I've taken it, my father will probably get the phone company to cut off service. Still, I toss it into my backpack, along with the adapter. Doesn't add much weight, so why not. When it doesn't work anymore I'll just chuck it.

Just the bare necessities, that's all I need. Choosing which clothes to take is the hardest thing. I'll need a couple sweaters and pairs of underwear. But what about shirts and trousers? Gloves, mufflers, shorts, a coat? There's no end to it. One thing I do know, though. I don't want to wander around some strange place with a huge backpack that screams out, Hey, everybody, check out the runaway! Do that and someone is sure to sit up and take notice. Next thing you know the police will haul me in and I'll be sent straight home. If I don't wind up in some gang first.

Any place cold is definitely out, I decide. Easy enough, just choose the opposite--a warm place. Then I can leave the coat and gloves behind, and get by with half the clothes. I pick out wash-and-wear-type things, the lightest ones I have, fold them neatly, and stuff them in my backpack. I also pack a three-season sleeping bag, the kind that rolls up nice and tight, toilet stuff, a rain poncho, notebook and pen, a Walkman and ten discs--got to have my music--along with a spare rechargeable battery. That's about it. No need for any cooking gear, which is too heavy and takes up too much room, since I can buy food at the local convenience store.

It takes a while but I'm able to subtract a lot of things from my list. I add things, cross them off, then add a whole other bunch and cross them off, too.

My fifteenth birthday is the ideal time to run away from home. Any earlier and it'd be too soon. Any later and I would have missed my chance.

During my first two years in junior high, I'd worked out, training myself for this day. I started practicing judo in the first couple years of grade school, and still went sometimes in junior high. But I didn't join any school teams. Whenever I had the time I'd jog around the school grounds, swim, or go to the local gym. The young trainers there gave me free lessons, showing me the best kind of stretching exercises and how to use the fitness machines to bulk up. They taught me which muscles you use every day and which ones can only be built up with machines, even the correct way to do a bench press. I'm pretty tall to begin with, and with all this exercise I've developed pretty broad shoulders and pecs. Most strangers would take me for seventeen. If I ran away looking my actual age, you can imagine all the problems that would cause.

Other than the trainers at the gym and the housekeeper who comes to our house every other day--and of course the bare minimum required to get by at school--I barely talk to anyone. For a long time my father and I have avoided seeing each other. We live under the same roof, but our schedules are totally different. He spends most of his time in his studio, far away, and I do my best to avoid him.

The school I'm going to is a private junior high for kids who are upper-class, or at least rich. It's the kind of school where, unless you really blow it, you're automatically promoted to the high school on the same campus. All the students dress neatly, have nice straight teeth, and are boring as hell. Naturally I have zero friends. I've built a wall around me, never letting anybody inside and trying not to venture outside myself. Who could like somebody like that? They all keep an eye on me, from a distance. They might hate me, or even be afraid of me, but I'm just glad they didn't bother me. Because I had tons of things to take care of, including spending a lot of my free time devouring books in the school library.

I always paid close attention to what was said in class, though. Just like the boy named Crow suggested.

The facts and techniques or whatever they teach you in class isn't going to be very useful in the real world, that's for sure. Let's face it, teachers are basically a bunch of morons. But you've got to remember this: you're running away from home. You probably won't have any chance to go to school anymore, so like it or not you'd better absorb whatever you can while you've got the chance. Become like a sheet of blotting paper and soak it all in. Later on you can figure out what to keep and what to unload.

I did what he said, like I almost always do. My brain like a sponge, I focused on every word said in class and let it all sink in, figured out what it meant, and committed everything to memory. Thanks to this, I barely had to study outside of class, but always came out near the top on exams.

My muscles were getting hard as steel, even as I grew more withdrawn and quiet. I tried hard to keep my emotions from showing so that no one--classmates and teachers alike--had a clue what I was thinking. Soon I'd be launched into the rough adult world, and I knew I'd have to be tougher than anybody if I wanted to survive.

My eyes in the mirror are cold as a lizard's, my expression fixed and unreadable. I can't remember the last time I laughed or even showed a hint of a smile to other people. Even to myself.

I'm not trying to imply I can keep up this silent, isolated facade all the time. Sometimes the wall I've erected around me comes crumbling down. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes, before I even realize what's going on, there I am--naked and defenseless and totally confused. At times like that I always feel an omen calling out to me, like a dark, omnipresent pool of water.

A dark, omnipresent pool of water.

It was probably always there, hidden away somewhere. But when the time comes it silently rushes out, chilling every cell in your body. You drown in that cruel flood, gasping for breath. You cling to a vent near the ceiling, struggling, but the air you manage to breathe is dry and burns your throat. Water and thirst, cold and heat--these supposedly opposite elements combine to assault you.

The world is a huge space, but the space that will take you in--and it doesn't have to be very big--is nowhere to be found. You seek a voice, but what do you get? Silence. You look for silence, but guess what? All you hear over and over and over is the voice of this omen. And sometimes this prophetic voice pushes a secret switch hidden deep inside your brain.

Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, full to the banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That's it. That's my heart.

Before running away from home I wash my hands and face, trim my nails, swab out my ears, and brush my teeth. I take my time, making sure my whole body's well scrubbed. Being really clean is sometimes the most important thing there is. I gaze carefully at my face in the mirror. Genes I'd gotten from my father and mother--not that I have any recollection of what she looked like--created this face. I can do my best to not let any emotions show, keep my eyes from revealing anything, bulk up my muscles, but there's not much I can do about my looks. I'm stuck with my father's long, thick eyebrows and the deep lines between them. I could probably kill him if I wanted to--I'm sure strong enough--and I can erase my mother from my memory. But there's no way to erase the DNA they passed down to me. If I wanted to drive that away I'd have to get rid of me.

There's an omen contained in that. A mechanism buried inside of me.

A mechanism buried inside of you.

I switch off the light and leave the bathroom. A heavy, damp stillness lies over the house. The whispers of people who don't exist, the breath of the dead. I look around, standing stock-still, and take a deep breath. The clock shows three p.m., the two hands cold and distant. They're pretending to be noncommittal, but I know they're not on my side. It's nearly time for me to say good-bye. I pick up my backpack and slip it over my shoulders. I've carried it any number of times, but now it feels so much heavier.

Shikoku, I decide. That's where I'll go. There's no particular reason it has to be Shikoku, only that studying the map I got the feeling that's where I should head. The more I look at the map--actually every time I study it--the more I feel Shikoku tugging at me. It's far south of Tokyo, separated from the mainland by water, with a warm climate. I've never been there, have no friends or relatives there, so if somebody started looking for me--which I kind of doubt--Shikoku would be the last place they'd think of.

I pick up the ticket I'd reserved at the counter and climb aboard the night bus. This is the cheapest way to get to Takamatsu--just a shade over ninety bucks. Nobody pays me any attention, asks how old I am, or gives me a second look. The bus driver mechanically checks my ticket.

Only a third of the seats are taken. Most passengers are traveling alone, like me, and the bus is strangely silent. It's a long trip to Takamatsu, ten hours according to the schedule, and we'll be arriving early in the morning. But I don't mind. I've got plenty of time. The bus pulls out of the station at eight, and I push my seat back. No sooner do I settle down than my consciousness, like a battery that's lost its charge, starts to fade away, and I fall asleep.

Sometime in the middle of the night a hard rain begins to fall. I wake up every once in a while, part the chintzy curtain at the window, and gaze out at the highway rushing by. Raindrops beat against the glass, blurring streetlights alongside the road that stretch off into the distance at identical intervals like they were set down to measure the earth. A new light rushes up close and in an instant fades off behind us. I check my watch and see it's past midnight. Automatically shoved to the front, my fifteenth birthday makes its appearance.

Hey, happy birthday, the boy named Crow says.

Thanks, I reply.

The omen is still with me, though, like a shadow. I check to make sure the wallaround me is still in place. Then I close the curtain and fall back asleep.


Visit Haruki Murakami's official website to read more from Kafka on the Shore.

Reading Group Guide


“As powerful as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. . . . Reading Murakami . . . is a striking experience in consciousness expansion.”
—Chicago Tribune

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enliven your group’s discussion of Kafka on the Shore, the magical new novel by the internationally acclaimed author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami. Part bildungsroman, part metaphysical thriller, part meditation on the elusive nature of time, Kafka on the Shore displays all the talents that have made Haruki Murakami one of the most beloved novelists in the world today.

1. The first character to speak in Kafka on the Shore is the “boy named Crow” [p. 3]. Who is he? What part of Kafka Tamura’s psyche does he represent?

2. “Kafka,” we later learn, means “crow” in Czech. What relationship is Murakami trying to suggest between Franz Kafka, Kafka Tamura, the boy named Crow, and actual crows? At what significant moments do crows appear in the novel? What symbolic value do they have?

3. When Kafka meets Sakura on the bus, they agree that “even chance meetings . . . are the results of karma” and that “things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence” [p. 33]. What role does fate, or meaningful coincidence, play in the novel? Is it karma that determines Kafka’s destiny?

4. Much of the novel alternates between Kafka’s story and Nakata’s. What effects does Murakami create by moving the reader back and forth between parallel narratives? What is the relationship between Nakata and Kafka?

5. When Kafka is a young boy, his father tells him: “Someday you will murder your father and be with your mother” [p. 202], the same destiny as Oedipus. Kafka’s father also tells him that he will sleep with his sister and that there is nothing he can do to prevent this prophecy from being fulfilled. How do Kafka’s attempts to escape his fate bring him closer to fulfilling it?

6. The phrase “for the time being” is repeated throughout Kafka on the Shore. Why has Murakami chosen to use this qualifying statement so often? How is the conventional concept of time stretched and challenged by events in the novel? Why does Miss Saeki tell Kafka: “Time’s rules don’t apply here. Time expands, then contracts, all in tune with the stirrings of the heart” [p. 219]?

7. In what ways are the boundaries between past and present, dreaming and waking, fantasy and reality blurred and often erased in Kafka on the Shore?

8. The teacher in charge of the children who lost consciousness in the woods during World War II writes to her professor many years later and tells him: “I find the worldview that runs through all of your publications very convincing—namely that as individuals each of us is extremely isolated, while at the same time we are all linked by a prototypical memory” [p. 96]. How are the main characters of the novel—Kafka, Nakata, Oshima, Miss Saeki—“extremely isolated”? In what ways do they share a “prototypical memory”? What would that memory be?

9. Kafka Tamura seems, in some mysterious way, to be both Miss Saeki’s son and the ghost of her long-dead lover. How does Murakami intend us to understand this shifting and apparently impossible dual identity?

10. What is the relationship between Nakata’s quest for the “entrance stone” and Kafka’s journey into the forest?

11. In what ways can Kafka on the Shore be read as a love story?

12. The supernatural shape-shifter, who takes the form of Colonel Sanders, tells Hoshino that he is neither God nor Buddha but a kind of “overseer, supervising something to make sure it fulfills its original role. Checking the correlation between different worlds, making sure things are in the right order” [p. 284]. What are these different worlds? Is Colonel Sanders talking about parallel universes?

13. Kafka on the Shore is, for the most part, a realistic novel, yet it contains many magical elements—Nakata’s ability to talk with cats and make fish fall from the sky, the shape-shifting Colonel Sanders, the middle-aged Miss Saeki visiting Kafka as her fifteen-year-old self. What is Murakami saying about the nature of reality and our beliefs about it through these seemingly impossible episodes?

14. At the end of the novel, Oshima tells Kafka, “You’ve grown up” [p. 463]. In what ways has Kafka been changed by his experience? What are the most important things he has learned? Why does he feel he has entered “a brand-new world” [p. 467]?

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Kafka on the Shore 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 263 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The style of the book reminded me a bit of Kurt Vonnegut's style. I read it within 3 days and I keep thinking about it. Although everything isn't answered in the story, I think it's enough to keep the reader more than satisfied (after all it makes the reader think about it more). It's so different from the other things I've been reading lately that I just find it refreshing and intriguing.
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
Murakami is one of our greatest living authors, and in my opinion this is his masterpiece. Kafka on the Shore is so beautiful and so surreal it will leave you haunted for days. The characters are so masterfully crafted that they will become a part of you. The existentialist themes are so profound that they will change you. This book is designed to make you think, and more importantly, to make you feel. And it does both those things, powerfully.
Breeze_in_Austin More than 1 year ago
Escaping the bounds of reality seems so simple in this amazing book by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, one of today's most original and mind-bending writers. The translation from Japanese to English is absolutely stunning as the language is both vivid and detailed. Following the story of a 15-year old boy as he finds his way through the mysteries of life, Murakami crafts a story that jolts the reader from concrete feelings to far-fetched imagery. Let go of what you expect and know of the world and allow yourself to venture into this meandering tale full of surprising twists and turns. Murakami's greatest feat is his ability to make what is surely impossible seem so real and lifelike - from a man who can talk to cats, to strange characters who resemble familiar characters from modern day product marketing like Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders. The tale is told in such a way as to suggest a dreamlike state where life isn't what you expect, and is much more vivid than we normally allow. Not a love story, exactly. Not a coming of age parable, either. Not a thriller or mystery. And yet, it weaves together elements of all of these into one masterful piece of writing that will keep you glued to the pages. Set in modern-day Japan, the story is filled with contemporary references, making the situations seem entirely plausible. But as the plot twists and meanders, it is clear that what you are reading requires a suspension of reality and a willingness to take in the well-crafted writing as merely a different way to see things. Kafka Tamura finds love and adventure as he fights to uncover the power of his father's oedipal prophecy. As he travels Japan as a runaway, he finds himself wondering if his path is chosen for him as fate, or if he is living a life of coincidence. While wondering, but not searching, for the mother who left him as a young child, his only sister gone with her, he discovers much more than he bargained for. Having lived in Japan, the descriptions of the people and the places immediately drew me back to times spent in this friendly, yet oftentimes exotic locale. Reading Kafka on the Shore made Japan seem less foreign, and more strange at the same time. The language is compelling, even as it has been translated to English - a notable feat not generally achieved. Murakami will be regarded as one of the world's most unique and creative fiction writers and Kafka on the Shore is the perfect example of all he brings to the written page.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was really taken deep into this book. Couldn't put it down. He is now one of my favorite authors.
jnmegan 8 months ago
As usual, Murakami provides his delighted readers with a unique experience in Kafka on the Shore. It is sumptuous novel, layered with symbolism and literary references. Murakami manages to masterfully preserve a strong sense of narrative and readability despite his experimental techniques and complex explorations of fundamental themes. Kafka on the Shore interweaves the stories of “Kafka” Tamura, a fifteen-year-old runaway and Nakata, an older man with magical gifts bestowed upon him after a near-death experience dating from his youth. The young “Kafka” searches for his mother who abandoned him, and Nakata seeks his destiny as a conduit between different states of reality. Both characters are on Odyssean quests that are piloted by fate and haunted by echoes of the past. Combined, the two protagonists’ stories are like a bildungsroman in forward and reverse. To attempt to simplify Murakami’s work would be an impossible and unworthy task for any reviewer. Kafka on the Shore is a book that needs to be digested slowly and lovingly. Any reader who soaks in its pages will be richly rewarded for doing so. Good for fans of: philosophical stories incorporating magical realism; translated Japanese fiction; nuanced and contemplative literary fiction. You may like this book if you liked: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles or other Murakami works; I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki; One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov; and Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges.
PghDragonMan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I reviewed Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, I mentioned Kafka, the author. I did not know how apropos that would be to my next Murakami book, Kafka on the Shore. In the same review, I also lamented that most of the stories did not work for me. Now I realize the problem was lack of space for the stories to grow and evolve. Kafka on the Shore, is every bit as dream like and surreal as the best of the short stories from the previous volume I read, but now the ideas have room to become fully developed.In reading this story, immerse yourself in it, let your self go, become a character on the periphery and just observe what goes on around you. What you will see, what you will experience is wonderful. If you¿ve a mind to, I¿m sure you could see some incredibly powerful symbolism in the story. I suggest leaving searching for such details alone, as it will detract from the story you are experiencing.The story centers around a young boy trying to become an independent person, trying to come to grips with who he is and why certain things have happened in his life. Aiding him in his search, some directly, some indirectly, are an old man conversant with cats, who may or may not have been part of an alien abduction during the latter part of the Second World War, a female jazz pianist, who may or may not be his mother, a gender defying librarian, a kindly truck driver with a troubled past of his own and a young woman, who may or may not be his sister plus some other characters that defy typing, but are not of this world.With a cast like this, the book reads like a dream directed by Fellini, but with a lot of contemporary references. At various points, Murakami focuses in on the finest of details, yet the writing styles keeps you from becoming bored. When needed, he changes to broad overviews, yet you still get all the information needed to keep everything in proper perspective. Portions of the story are also truly erotic, something very few contemporary authors can write well these days. From pens of many other authors, these passages become either vague sex scenes or pornographic in detail.This may be the most interesting book I read for 2008 and earns a place on my All Time Favorite¿s list. I want to add this to my Physical Library, but Kafka on the Shore may not to everyone's taste. If you enjoy surreal characters and story lines, this is one to try. If finely detailed lyrical prose appeals to you, you will be very pleased. If you like a lot of action and everything clearly spelled out, you will give up on this in a hurry.
librorumamans on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Murakami provides a highly readable bildungsroman in which fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura, "the toughest fifteen year old in the world," struggles against the emptiness within and temptations and trials without to find his place.Into this story, which recalls others ranging from at least Childe Rowland to Harry Potter, Murakami interleaves a parallel but related quest by two unlikely men just as lost and adrift in modernity as the teenaged Kafka.Full of talking cats, time shifts, icons of mass marketing both evil and helpful, Kafka on the Shore is a gallimaufry of symbol, metaphor, and allusion. There's the curse of Oedipus, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, a grieving woman pining by the sea, Hansel and Gretel, perhaps (except that this Gretel is transgendered), and so on.At the end, Kafka learns that the world is metaphor, and he smiles for the first time. We readers are not sure at the end where we've got to, if anywhere, and that seems to be much of Murakami's point. But the trip's been a lot of fun.Why three stars, then? The fun Murakami creates is not quite enough to sustain a book of this length. Having got a bucket full of balls up and kept them in the air in the first half, he makes it clear that he's not even going to try to catch them all by the end. It seems he gets a bit winded, and so do we. I also dislike the translator's decision to Americanize some details -- the Japanese do not measure distances in miles or withdraw cash in dollars, for example. The interplay of Japanese and Western culture is central to the book. But for the English-language reader it's impossible to know how the author intended this interplay to work.
arelenriel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Murakami. His writing style is so whimsical. His books remind me a lot of the films of Hayao Mayazaki. Kafka is an indiviualist and every teenaged boy in existance all at the same time. The unique people he runs into on his journey of self discovery are both charming and funny. Excellent book.
rubberbandeffect on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love the dreamlike landscape of this book. And while it's not my favorite by Murakami, I always enjoy the other-worldliness of his characters like Nakata. You're always able to go along the same ride as the characters in Murakami's books, and you might even take a ride of your own before the story is finished.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This feels like a more modernized Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and as long as it is, it reads quickly and smoothly. The moves between characters are rarely awkward, and both the characters and the storyline serve to draw readers in. I'd recommend it highly, though it's not a light read and does take a bit of thought along the way and afterward.
roslyni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a strange and fantastic tale of adolesence and one's place in the world. The story oscillates between Kafka's haunting coming of age story and Nakata's quest to prove himself useful to society. Murakami writes with a gentleness that seduces and entices readers into his dark yet compelling world. Yet, there is a safety in his writing that allows his characters to explore frightening experiences contingent on a reality that is unclear to us as readers.Murakami again uses minimalist language and style which only seems to add to the haunting world he creates.
Aerodynamics on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a curious book. I often found the experience of reading it to be almost painfully dull (I had to make a number of attempts before making it all of the way through), but after finishing it the characters and themes stayed with me for some time. I heard Murakami say in an interview that he views the book as something of a riddle, and that multiple readings will yeild understanding. I'm not sure if I'll ever get around to going through it again, but I will agree with Murakami's assessment of it's enigmatic nature. Impressively, this is appealing quality rather than a frustration.'Kafka On The Shore' should be quite satisfying to Murakami fans and to appreciators of oblique, fantastical, or postmodern literature.
paulstallard on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Murakami's usual blend of befuddled anti hero, popular culture, psychic meanderings and unexpected plot twists. Fantastic.
sidecar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a huge Murakami fan and this was not my favorite. By that I mean it was much better than almost anything I've read in a long time.
FicusFan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What an amazing book. So much going on, so much depth, so much imagery, myth and metaphor. The story is told in 2 threads. A teen boy runs away from an unhappy sterile home, he is fleeing, and seeking at the same time. An older man who was afflicted as a child during WWII, is launched on a mystical search after a gruesome murder. There are many interesting characters, places and incidents, not the least of which are talking cats, fish raining from the sky, and conversations with a stone.There is no complete wrap up of many of threads, the reader is left to determine for themselves what happens and what it means.
WittyreaderLI on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've read the Wind up Bird Chronicles which I enjoyed, and now I've finished my second Murakami book. My first reaction is that this is one weird book. It is incrediably deep, but at times very confusing. There are talking cats, as well as some grotesque murders and sex scenes. But overall, this was an interesting and worthwhile read.
poplin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kafka on the Shore follows the stories of Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old runaway with the specter of Greek tragedy hanging over his head, and Nakata, a senior citizen who was rendered mentally slow by a bizarre childhood incident (but left with the ability to communicate with cats). Their narratives are presented in parallel, and as the novel progresses, the fate of each becomes intertwined with that of the other¿as much on a spiritual plane as on a physical one. Surrounding them is a world in a constant state of dream.Murakami is often characterized as a magical realist, and although I can see why, I believe this is something of a misclassification. I once read an article that posited that the feature that distinguishes magical realism from pure fantasy is the way cause and effect is treated. In fantasy, magical events occur without reason or explanation, whereas in magical realism, seemingly magical acts are given a cause¿even if the link that binds together cause and effect seems implausible or even absurd. For example, in Midnight¿s Children, the main character¿s telepathic abilities are awakened when he inhales a pajama cord too deeply. Here, however, the connection between cause and effect is buried deeply, and is often nowhere to be found. My mind desperately sought to find a connection between Johnnie Walker and Colonel Sanders, knowing the repetitious use of brand names must mean something, and yet I came up empty-handed.I believe that Murakami¿s intent was to create not a world where magic and reality coexist but rather one in which the line between waking and dream is razor thin and easily breached. As in dreams, there is a sense of connection between people and explanations underlying events that can almost be seen, almost be grasped, yet remains elusively just out of focus.How is the reader supposed to understand a dream not of his own imagination?Hoshino, the truck driver who befriends Nakata and helps him complete his mission, seems to take the proper position: with some difficulty, he stops questioning the meaning of improbable events and unlikely characters, and accepts the dream as his own.Even the unsatisfying conclusion that offers little explanation and feels at first to be rushed and anticlimactic ultimately plays into Murakami¿s vision of a shared dream. Dreams invariably end with looses threads, and this one is no exception.Kafka on the Shore is unsettling and enchanting, and has the mark of a book that will only continue to bloom upon another read.
Zmrzlina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Parts of this story made me wonder at how gorgeous language can be and how it can transport me to another place, another time. And parts made me think, "where is the editor?" Some of the dialogue is inane and metaphors can only stretch so far. None of the revelations came as a surprise, though I don't think they were meant to be surprises. It isn't the story that is important here... more the idea of the story. I was not at all happy with the ending... silly and too neat for so complicated a book. However, I am going to reread the book sometime when I am ready to take notes so I can really dig into what I loved and didn't like.
ijustgetbored on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Five stars and then some. Sometimes, you'll read a book and wonder how the author managed to be so brilliant. This is one of those books that raises that question.In (very) brief, the book depicts two parallel storylines: that of a teenager who has run away from home and that of agiing man who, though he seems simple, posseses some remarkable abilities. The range of supporting characters is wide, and they are all well-drawn (with the possible exemption of the young Sakura, who is not so much enigmatic as she is simply a bit thin); Murakami has tremendous skills in character development: each character is well-rounded, well-developed, and speaks in a unique voice. All of the main characters also tend to wrap up their own trajectories, which is a feat (tying up all the loose ends, which is especially a formidable task in a novel as long and involved as this one) that many novelists never seem to grasp.The plot itself is, as mentioned above, far more complicated than can be outlined in a review. What a potential reader needs to know is that the plot never becomes entangled and that the reader never becomes lost. There are plenty of points of metaphysical speculation, and the plot is all the richer for them; they are part of the novel's lifeblood. This is not navel-gazing; Murakami weaves them into his plot in order to make us reflect not only on the magic realism world of his characters but also on our own being-in-the-world. Reading this novel is NOT a passive activity but is instead one of active engagement.Above all, reading this novel is enjoyable. Murakami has given us a page-turning plotline, one that keeps us asking what on earth could be coming next. He has given us likeable main characters, ones we want to follow into the next chapters. He has given us a world where the impossible is possible, and we want to extend our stay there. He does this all in an engaging, frequently shifting, narrative voice that keeps the novel cohesive and steers us onward. Translator Philip Gabriel also deserves mention for his lively translation into English. Puns, jokes, idiomatic expressions, and slang all come through loud and clear in English. They style of the novel comes through in a natural voice, one that is never contrived or bland.
KromesTomes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It¿s an odd comparison, but reading ¿Kafka on the Shore¿ by Haruki Murakami really reminded me of my recent experience with Chuck Pahlaniuk¿s ¿Survivor.¿ Once again, a novel of great ideas is undone by poor execution. However, in Murakami¿s case, I can¿t help but think the language barrier is a significant part of the problem.(This is reinforced by my recent discovery that in my edition, but not all editions, references to ¿yen¿ were changed along the way to ¿dollars.¿ This leads me to wonder what else was changed to make things ¿easier¿ for us uncultured Americans. Certainly the writing has a sort of awkwardness/innocence that, while it could be that faux disingenuousness on Murakami¿s account, also just as likely could be poor work on the translator¿s. Or a combination of both.)Anyway, one the surface, the story is sort of a bildungsromans about ¿Kafka¿ Tamura, a 15-year-old Tokyo student from a rather disturbed family ¿ although it¿s really just his father, as his mother abandoned the males, taking with her Kafka¿s older, adopted sister, when Kafka was just four. Kafka runs away from home, eventually getting a job in a private library on another island, which turns out to be more than just a coincidence. Of course, for Kafka to accomplish what he needs to, a certain ¿holy fool¿ type, able to speak to cats and a special stone, also plays a big part.Which brings me to another disappointing part of the novel: Murakami¿s fascination with magical realism. Yes, I knew it was coming, but I had forgotten/repressed how much I don¿t like that kind of thing. Even in a novel like this one, which has heavy doses of ¿regular¿ magic (living spirits, spirit worlds, etc.), going that one step further to include the cats is just too much for me.Yet, underneath that surface there were certainly ideas, as I mentioned, that truly appealed to me. One that particularly stood out was Murakami¿s suggestion that Franz Kafka¿s machine in the Penal Colony is a metaphor for the world in which we live. And the core of the novel is really about how Tamura is searching for something to fill himself with so he doesn¿t become just another empty, ¿hollow¿ man. Even if he has to go beyond the ¿real¿ world to do it.In the end, I fall back on my belief that a bit too much of Murakami is lost in the translation for me to get the full effect of what he¿s trying to do. I recommend the book, but more for its ideas that for a fully rounded reading experience.PS: I recently came across an old NYTBR with an essay by Murakami about how much his style is influenced by his love for jazz ... "Your style needs to have agood, natural, steady rhythm ... I learned the importance of rhythm ... mainly from jazz. Next comes melody -- which, in literature, means the appropriate arrangement of the words to match the rhythm. ... Next is harmony -- the internal mental sounds that support the rhythm. Then comes the part I like best: free improvisation."I get nothing like this from his writing, least of all a sense of "free improvisation." This is especially true right now, as I'm finishing up "A Smuggler's Bible" by Joseph McElroy, which DOES have the jazz-like language thing going on. This reinforces my point about how much must be missing in his translations.
dancingstarfish on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read Murakami when the mood has struck me over the years and this may be my favorite. His books are like dreams you barely remember the next morning. When you are suddenly reminded of it later, you remember what it felt like, more than you remember the exact details. I loved it!
sdicht on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved every Murakami book I've ever read with the exception of this one. I've tried reading this twice, and both times I dropped it halfway through. It's really slow and repetitive, and nothing seems to be going on of any interest, although Murakami doesn't seem to think so. There might be something awkward with the translation in this one too, the style a little more clunky than usual. A much better read is _The Wind Up Bird Chronicle_ and _After Dark_ for the more recent offerings.
DanielZKlein on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Murakami builds a beautiful tale and hints at all sorts of wonderful things that he is going to do with it, and then he allows it to fall apart. There are books with frustrating endings, like _City of Glass_, where you cannot help but think of the way in which the ending refused to do anything you wanted it to, but where you feel that this was quite intentional and that the whole book had been headed for this end. Not so here: it seems that Murakami constructed a great tale up to the 3/4 point, then didn't know what to do with it, added some vague and inconsequential scenes that in no way had any relevance to the rest of the book, and then stopped writing. The only other book I remember which stopped rather than ended in this way was John Grisham's _The Brethren_, and that comparison says a lot of bad things about Murakami.
CBJames on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami is a twin narrative of isolation and connection. While on a class trip to the mountains during the second world war, Nakata and his classmates fall into an inexplicable coma-like sleep. Their frantic teacher goes for help and returns to find that all of the students but Nakata have woken up. Weeks go by before Nakata wakes, but when he does he has no memory of what happened before his sleep, he no longer has the ability to read and write, he has lost most of his intelligence and is unable to continue his schooling.Sixty years pass, and we find Nakata living on a government pension and handouts from his family. He has no friends and very little human contact in his life, but he is able to talk to cats. This ability makes it possible for him to create a small business as a finder of lost cats. While looking for Goma, a neighbor's cat, he discovers a nefarious plot to steal the souls of cats and put them into a kind of flute. The man behind this plot, Johnny Walker, is a nationally famous artist and the father of Kafka, a fifteen year old boy who believes he is cursed, like Oedipus, to kill his father and sleep with his mother. Kafka runs away, drawn mysteriously to the island of Shikoku where he finds shelter in a private library.Nakata fills in for Kafka and kills the artist once he discovers the extent of his crimes against the neighborhood cats. He then flees the city, drawn also to Shikoku and the private library, unaware that the library is just beneath the mountainside where decades earlier he fell into the mysterious coma. This must sound like a very strange story and it is, but it is also very touching. The main characters do meet other people with whom they form connections. Everyone in the book is a lost soul, looking for something to fill an emptiness inside them. For a time they find each other, not all of them together though. I was surprised that the story's events continually kept everyone from meeting up in the library, which seemed like the logical end. I expected Nakata and Kafka to meet, but they did not. Still, the ending did not disappoint. I will not spoil it any further here except to say that I found the last 100 pages very difficult to put down and the ultimate finish unexpectedly touching.Strange things happen in a Murakami novel (a boy falls into a coma, a man talks to cats, Colonel Sanders makes an appearance, doors to alternate worlds open) but within this magical/fantasy structure Murakmai gets at the heart of what it means to live in the modern urban world. He understands how so much of our world can make so little sense, how alienating that experience can be, how the randomness of events can lead to an unexpected sense of order, of destiny and what it is like to be compelled by fate towards actions we often cannot explain. If I sound like I am gushing, I am. I am also giving Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami five out of five stars. It's a book that leaves the reader thinking about it long after the last page.