Kafka On The Shore

Haruki Murakami
A teenage boy Kafka Tamura, runs away from home and his father, possibly in search of his mother who ran away with his sister when he was four. In his mind, there is a chilling oedipal prophecy that his father made – that he would one day kill his father and sleep with his mother. The reader travels with Kafka on his journey where he encounters a girl who could probably be his sister, a woman who could probably be his mother and a cross-dressing librarian who becomes his friend and ally. Kafka’s story is interspersed with that of an old man, Nakata, who in his childhood had a possible extra-terrestrial experience that left him retarded, but with an ability to speak to cats. Nakata too has set out on a journey, after he kills a cat killer, Kafka’s father. Nakata and Kafka’s journeys converge, of course. The prophecy seemingly comes true with the strange connection between Nakata and Kafka. There is a possible spirit world that Kafka visits and Nakata is possibly some sort of a spirit conduit for the Kafka story to come to a conclusion.
Murakami writes a strange yarn. There is something eerie and ominous about the whole tale and he has you enthralled in his story telling. Talking cats, raining leeches, extra-terrestrial experiences, dreams as real as reality, an in-between world, between death and life… all of these form part of this gripping story. It is Pullman, Tolkein and Dahl rolled into one.
I continue to be fascinated by this Japanese writer who so effortlessly can make the most unreal experiences read so normal and casual and every day. Kafka on the Shore is in some ways, a straight-forward tale of evil and an ordinary world’s fight against it. There are unlikely heroes and supernatural allies. It is a fable, there are elements that are allegorical in nature, yet it all holds together quite mesmerizingly.
This is not my favourite Murakami… but it comes close. It definitely seems the most ambitious novel I have read of his. In his strange blend of fantasy, quirkiness and everyday mundane-ness, Murakami sure has a winning formula. One that I have not tired of, as yet.


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