"A stunning work of art," the New York Observer wrote of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, "that bears no comparisons," and this is also true of this magnificent new novel, which is every bit as ambitious, expansive and bewitching. A tour-de-force of metaphysical reality, Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters. At fifteen, Kafka Tamura runs away from home, either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister. And the aging Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime ...
"A stunning work of art," the New York Observer wrote of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, "that bears no comparisons," and this is also true of this magnificent new novel, which is every bit as ambitious, expansive and bewitching. A tour-de-force of metaphysical reality, Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters. At fifteen, Kafka Tamura runs away from home, either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister. And the aging Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction, finds his highly simplified life suddenly upset. Their odyssey, as mysterious to us as it is to them, 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 fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle. Yet this, like 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.
Where do I even begin with this book? Should I start with the giant Oedipus complex that acts as the building foundation for the story? Or maybe with the author's never-ending quest to connect with the reader on a "deep" level? Or maybe with the lack of understanding of the female anatomy? Or perhaps I should start with the complete normalization of rape, even considering cultural boundaries?
No matter where I start, this book is a gigantic disaster. I regret spending $16 on such a waste of time. The author tries so hard -- too hard -- to connect with the reader on a spiritual level. It was an incessant storm of broad question after question. I never knew that the "what is wrong, what is right" shtick could become so outplayed. There is just no point to this book (or perhaps that is the point); it goes on and on just to end abruptly and uselessly. The characters, not for lack of trying, are shallow. Even though the author equips them with knowledge of philosophy, history, and mythology, they do nothing with it. They just question; they question everything. For. The. Whole. Book. Not answers, questions. "Why do we exist?" "Is it wrong to do this?" "Is it wrong to love?" "Do ghosts exist?" "What if they don't?" "What if they do?" I love deeper meaning in books, I really do. I enjoy books about loss, about cultural/spiritual identity, about finding yourself, etc. This book, however, just seems like it was written for the sole purpose of being deep -- not to instill something in the reader, not to express life as an art or skill, not even to give the reader a break from reality. It reminds me of when I wrote poetry in middle school and used general questions and comparisons to "deepen" my writing. All of the questions and the research that went into this book were just for decoration.
Mar 7, 2008
This is the best book I've read in along time. Such a great use of words and the story could only come from Murakami. You can never tell what's around the corner, although nothing is really all that clarified, I found myself getting increasingly more interested as the chapters jumped from character to character. Definitely a great achievement for Murakami and our luck for being able to read it. One to make you think.
P.S. When this book came out, Murakami told readers to submit their questions about the book, he replied himself to 1,800 replies from more than 10,000.
Mar 23, 2007
The story takes place in Japan, where a boy, who calls himself Kafka, runs away from home. We learn this is to try to escape living out a horrific Oedipal curse his father has told him he has. Simultaneously, it is the story of an older man, horribly damaged as a schoolboy in an unexplained incident during WWII. Despite his mental limitations, he becomes a central figure in Kafka's life as he's drawn towards him in surreal, dreamlike encounters.
Like I said, summing it up is hard, even moreso if I mentioned that two characters are named Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders. You might think that makes the book funny, and you'd be right. It's also terribly sad, and poetic, and something else I'm not quite sure about. What I do know is that reading this book feels like I've found another writer whose work I wait for, and what's better is that he has a whole library I haven't explored yet. I could be disappointed, but Kafka On The Shore is clearly one of the better books I've read in years.
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