Book 140: Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

You’ll have to excuse the language, but this book was a mind f*ck. Now, don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean it was bad, it is actually one of the best written books I’ve read this year, but my brain hurts trying to process the novel.

A friend in the UK recommended this book to me and I only just now got around to reading it and thus it counts for my Mount TBR Challenge (22 of 25).

I did a brief cursory search to see if I should save this novel for the Literary Others event in September and I should have with the amazing character Oshima, but I’m glad I didn’t. At one point he says this and it boggled my mind at how awesome he is. I mean there were a lot more awesome things, especially as to the reveal which happens pretty late in the book, but still definitely a great character.

“In other words, you’re daring to get personal and ask about the antisocial romance that colors my warped, homosexual, Gender-Identity-Disordered life?” (296)

Seriously? How awesome is that sort of a comment to anyone?!?! So on to my (random) response to Kafka on the Shore. Keep in mind that the two major things I’ve taken away from this novel are actually only tangentially related to the novel.

The first thing I took from the novel is that this author has become so much a part of popular culture, be prepared to talk about him to ANYONE. I have never had more people look at what I was reading or even ask me questions about a book than I had while reading this book. I guess I should have realized that with the publication of 1Q84 this year there would be a lot of stares, but WOW. Everyone thought this was a newer novel by him and I had to tell them it was an older one and this is the only novel that I’d ever read by him.

My second take away is that the Japanese are very unique artistically, and I’m assuming culturally, speaking. I hope no one takes offense and I truly mean this as ac compliment. I have no idea where to classify this novel, it’s definitely a post-modern existential novel, but other than that it’s like what?! As I was reading, especially towards the end, I was constantly reminded of the famous Japanese animator and screen writer Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke to name a few). The merging/overlapping of the spirit world and the human world is fascinating and I feel that Miyazaki and Murakami have done amazing jobs portraying this gray area.

The novel itself takes place in Japan and is the coming of age story of Kafka Tamura and the last journey of Mr. Nakata. I appreciated the story for its beauty and oddity, and I definitely love stories that are journeys (there are a lot here), but there were a few scenes I could’ve done without. However, Murakami’s descriptiveness made me power through them and appreciate just how gory (cat scene) or embarrassing (most of the sex scenes – to me) the scenes came across.

And as a MAJOR bonus a large portion of the novel takes place in a library (which I want to retire to!). The library was a character of it’s own right. It definitely was more than just a setting. I can’t even begin to describe how it was, but I love dthis line about the library,

“A deserted library in the morning – there’s something about it that really gets to me. All possible words and ideas are there, resting quietly. I want to do what I can to preserve this place, keep it neat and tidy.” (313)

And another thing Murakami does well is dropping in abstract thoughts and ideas, as well as references to famous pieces of literature, famous authors and artists, and pieces of music. Many authors try to do this and it’s cumbersome and often times obnoxious, but Murakami found a way to incorporate it into the conversations and the story in a way that is natural with his writing style and easy for the reader to read.

Recommendation: READ IT!!!!! As I said it is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read this year, and probably ever. There is one incredibly disturbing scene I happened to read right before bed, but other than that it was a really well written and really makes you think without overdoing it.

Opening Line: “‘So you’re all set for money, then?’ the boy named Crow asks in his typical sluggish voice.”

Closing Line: “You are part of a brand new world.” (Whited out.)

Additional Quotes from Kafka on the Shore
“Reality’s just the accumulation of ominous prophecies come to life. All you have to do is open a newspaper on any given day and weigh the good news versus the bad news, and you’ll see what I mean.” (154)

“Gays, lesbians, straights, feminists, fascist pigs, communists, Hare Krishnas—none of them bother me. I don’t care what banner they raise. But what I can’t stand are hollow people. When I’m with them I just can’t bear it, and wind up saying things I shouldn’t.” (181)

“Necessity is an independent concept. It has a different structure from logic, morals, or meaning. Its function lies entirely in the role it plays. What doesn’t play a role shouldn’t exist. What necessity requires does need to exist.” (287)

“Time weighs down on you like an old, ambiguous dream. You keep on moving, trying to slip through it. But even if you go to the ends of the earth, you won’t be able to escape it. Still, you have to go there – to the edge of the world. There’s something you can’t do unless you get there.” (467)

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16 thoughts on “Book 140: Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

  1. This was my first Murakami too. I can’t remember it all as I’d like to and one day I would love to re-read it. I think Murakam’s novels benefit from multiple re-reads because there are so many different layers. I have re-read The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and I think I enjoyed it even more on the second re-read. I love the way he does peel open your brain and makes you think in a different way.

    I have yet to read 1Q84. Some people seem to be disappointed by it but I think the hype was probably just too much. I think people new to Murakami liked it, old fans not so much. I’m just going into it as if it is any other book – I don’t expect to like everything Murakami writes although I have liked mostly everything. The Wild Sheep Chase kinda boggled my brain too much and gave me a headache (a real one) so I would like to read that book again but this time from a perspective where I’m not trying to figure out what Murakami means. I think his books work best when you just let yourself be and read the book.

    My favourite of his to date is probably Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of the World, although since re-reading The Wind-up Bird Chronicle maybe that is now… there is a rather uhm, toe curling graphic moment in that book too. The cat torture scene in Kafka I thought was bad enough.

    Anyway, I am so excited that you loved this book. Murakami is my favourite author… he’s just… I just love him.

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    • There is something about him that just makes you think. And what I appreciated most was that it wasn’t so over written or dense that you HAD to do it. You can read the novel just for the story and still find yourself thinking or you can read the novel searching for a deeper meaning and spend most of the novel thinking and miss out on the story. It was a great mixture and I will definitely look into reading more of his works!

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  2. This book is on “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die,” which means it’s on my list! Sounds like a book that shouldn’t be taken lightly, so I will make sure to provide lots of time and energy to reading it!

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    • Thanks for stopping by and the comment! It’s funny, you can read it lightly (more like I did) and not search for the deeper meanings, and you’ll still get a lot out of it. Or you can sit down and try and find all of the meaning in it and you will find a lot, but I doubt you’ll enjoy it as much. Good luck with that list!

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    • It was a very good read. I’m debating on saving it to re-read or not. I feel like I could definitely get more out of it, but I’m not sure I want to stress that point you know?

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      • I think his books are worth a re-read… you can just let it flow over you once again. I think the more you read of him, the more things you start picking up. I think half of reading Murakami is what it makes you as an individual think and feel, how you interpret it then finding what Murakami meant, if you know what I mean? Reading Murakami is as much a personal journey… the meaning you find is personal to you.

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    • Aww, I’m sure you’d enjoy it and don’t sell yourself short! No matter what you think of yourself as a reader I feel like Murakami has a message in there for you. I think I struggled because I was like wait what? who? how? more than anything.

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