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Kafka on the Shoreby Haruki Murakami
In Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami brings the Oedipus legend to contemporary Japan. The reader is treated to his musings on art, culture, the loss of innocence and...cats, in his patented, magic-realist way. Easily his best novel translated into English since Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore will please Murakami fans old and new.
"Perhaps it needn't be said that this meta-fictional fun house isn't perfect, but underpinning it all is a surprisingly patient, deeply affecting meditation on perfection itself, specifically romantic perfection — the obsessive greed in pursuing it, the selfish isolation that comes from achieving it, the soul-killing (and also selfish) grief of outliving it, of being left, inevitably, with nothing but its fading memory." Jon Zobenica, the Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
With Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami gives us a novel every bit as ambitious and expansive as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has been acclaimed both here and around the world for its uncommon ambition and achievement, and whose still-growing popularity suggests that it will be read and admired for decades to come.
This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it 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.
Extravagant in its accomplishment, Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world's truly great storytellers at the height of his powers.
"Previous books such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood have established Murakami as a true original, a fearless writer possessed of a wildly uninhibited imagination and a legion of fiercely devoted fans. In this latest addition to the author's incomparable oeuvre, 15-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away from home, both to escape his father's oedipal prophecy and to find his long-lost mother and sister. As Kafka flees, so too does Nakata, an elderly simpleton whose quiet life has been upset by a gruesome murder. (A wonderfully endearing character, Nakata has never recovered from the effects of a mysterious World War II incident that left him unable to read or comprehend much, but did give him the power to speak with cats.) What follows is a kind of double odyssey, as Kafka and Nakata are drawn inexorably along their separate but somehow linked paths, groping to understand the roles fate has in store for them. Murakami likes to blur the boundary between the real and the surreal — we are treated to such oddities as fish raining from the sky; a forest-dwelling pair of Imperial Army soldiers who haven't aged since WWII; and a hilarious cameo by fried chicken king Colonel Sanders — but he also writes touchingly about love, loneliness and friendship. Occasionally, the writing drifts too far into metaphysical musings — mind-bending talk of parallel worlds, events occurring outside of time — and things swirl a bit at the end as the author tries, perhaps too hard, to make sense of things. But by this point, his readers, like his characters, will go just about anywhere Murakami wants them to, whether they 'get' it or not. Agent, Amanda Urban at ICM. 60,000 first printing. (Jan. 24)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Murakami is of course himself an immensely reader-friendly novelist, and never has he offered more enticing fare than this enchantingly inventive tale. A masterpiece, entirely Nobel-worthy." Kirkus Reviews
"Murakami's literary high-wire acts have earned him both boos and ahs from connoisseurs of contemporary fiction. What side you come down on depends on your predilection for the perverse." Booklist
"Kafka on the Shore is Murakami's biggest novel in a decade and one of the most fun to read....
"[Kafka] may be the Japanese author's weirdest novel yet, but it's also one of his best....What ties all this together is Murakami's unflappable, enchanting prose: hip but companionable, it keeps you coming back for more." Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"This new book, as powerful as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and because of the plot design even a bit more accessible, is a fine place to begin exploring Murakami's world, which is our own, with a few major surprises." Chicago Tribune
"Murakami creates a magical reality....Murakami's power to imagine is breathtaking and the empathy infusing Kafka on the Shore makes it a responsible book, one that is adult, wise, and forgiving." Boston Globe
"The voluptuous pleasure of Haruki Murakami's enthralling fictions...reminds me of dreaming....And, like a dream, what this dazzling novel means — or whether it means anything at all — we may never know. (Grade: A-)" Entertainment Weekly
"Murakami is a writer of immense and unexpected imagination...a compelling read....While Kafka on the Shore doesn't resonate quite as strongly as The Wind-up Bird Chronicles...it is hardly a waste of the reader's time." Denver Post
"Parts of Murakami's story are violently gruesome and sexually explicit, and the plot line following Nakata is rather eerie and disturbing. Yet the bulk of this narrative is erudite, lyrical, and compelling; followers of Murakami's work should approve. Recommended." Library Journal
"[A] real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender....
"Murakami's novel, though wearying at times and confusing at others, has the faintly absurd loft of some great festive balloon. He addresses the fantastic and the natural, each with the same mix of gravity and lightness." Los Angeles Times
"However vague its allusions and overbearing its pretensions, however needlessly jive its English translation ('Jeez Louise'), this book makes for a beguiling and enveloping experience." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[W]hile anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves." Laura Miller, The New York Times Book Review
Murakami gives readers a novel every bit as ambitious and expansive as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has been acclaimed around the world for its uncommon ambition and achievement, and whose still-growing popularity suggests that it will be read and admired for decades to come.
About the Author
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into thirty-four 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. His books include After the Quake; Dance Dance Dance; The Elephant Vanishes; Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World; Norwegian Wood; South of the Border, West of the Sun; Sputnik Sweetheart; Underground; A Wild Sheep Chase; and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, all available in Vintage paperback, as is Vintage Murakami, a selection of his finest work.
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