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Kafka on the Shore

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Kafka on the Shore Cover

ISBN13: 9781400079278
ISBN10: 1400079276
Condition: Standard
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Review-A-Day

"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

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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.)

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"[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

Review:

"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

Review:

"[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

Review:

"[A] real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender....[I]t seems more gripping than it has a right to be and less moving, perhaps, than the author wanted it to be." John Updike, The New Yorker

Review:

"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

Review:

"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

Review:

"Kafka on the Shore is Murakami's biggest novel in a decade and one of the most fun to read....[I]t feels like a return to Murakami's most whimsical métier." Orlando Sentinel

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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Inquisitor of Irony, August 8, 2012 (view all comments by Inquisitor of Irony)
Having never heard of Murakami prior to the publication of Kafka on the Shore, I resisted purchasing it time and again. After all, it does not follow that simply because one employs a particularly beloved signifier in a title, that the object signified by said title accrues some metaphysical value, which is not credited to texts bereft of such clever strategies. Indeed, one must be quite bold to actually invoke "Kafka" before many who will examine and possibly read it has any other experience of one's work. As it turns out, Murakami is absolutely justified in his appropriation of Kafka's name in title of this wondrous work of imaginative brilliance.

Notwithstanding the very real and significant contributions Freud made to our understanding to the workings of the mind, I maintain that his true claim to fame is as the greatest mythologist of the 20th century, especially in his later writings, and most especially in his books dealing with the socio-political foundations of society--The Future of an Illusion & Totem and Taboo come to mind--and commentary on such relations, which are found throughout his work. In order to walk away from these amazing books having gained anything of value, one has to be willing to give Freud a certain amount of artistic license and suspend disbelief. Having done so, the payoff is immense. For example, I found that The Future of an Illusion is a perfect way to off-set Aristotle, J. S. Mill, and old Manny Kant, in that it offers a such a radically different account of the foundations of and motivation to morality that students must rethink all of the theories from beginning to end. (I don't use Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals for reasons of temporal economy.)

A similar act of faith is the very condition of the possibility of reading much more than 15 pages of this work of shockingly expansive imagination. As something of a fetishist for magical realism, I am more than prepared to have characters give birth to cats, dance with the devil, and defy the never questioned convention that holds that nature is ruled by certain unbreakable laws, such as gravity, when, in fact, the strongest claim that we can make as to the continuation gravity's felicitous effects is that they have not failed to obtain to this point in human history, as far as we know. I must say, however, that neither de Bernieres (I am thinking not of Corelli's Mandolin, but of his early trilogy, which elaborates the history of the fantastic village of Cochadebajo, which is in the same metaphysical neighborhood as the village to which Kafka Tamura, the title character as you will have guessed, travels in seeking to achieve what Nietzsche calls the most difficult task: becoming what one is.)nor Borges, Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita) nor Allende, not even Garcia Marquez,the Master himself, prepared me in the least for what lay ahead in Kafka on the Shore.

Frankly, Murakami is in a league all his own. He requires not simply that we suspend disbelief, but that, in addition, we suspend all belief as well. In order to fully enjoy such an adventure as he has created in Kafka on the Shore, it is necessary that we do everything we can to approach the text with a tabula rosa. The less we know--or, shall I say ironic as this combination of words may appear, the less we believe ourselves to know, the more receptive we will be to the actuality of the work of art that is in front of us.

There are plenty of talented, even brilliant writers. There are even quite a few whose talents reach far beyond a technical competence for putting a story together in a coherent and compelling fashion, but I have never encountered a writer with the temerity of Murakami. Kafka on the Shore would be just as easily at home in a class introducing metaphysics, specifically regarding time and identity, as in a survey of postmodern or contemporary fiction. Indeed, I would have hesitated not to give it a double classification Literature/Philosophy were I a publisher more interested in veracity than in the philosophy of money.

One could easily write a book on Murakami's theory of time, the profound elaborations of which I have not seen the likes of since Faulkner's Oh, Jerusalem I Forget Thee, or Wild Palms. Likewise, there is an entire physics of identity, which lay at the heart of the book. One, moreover, which is rather Freudian, to say the least. For as it turns out, Kafka seeks nothing more than to avoid his father's curse that he will be murdered by Kafka, who will then sleep with this mother and his sister: Aeschylus by the Shore just does not have the right ring to it.

Starting off from this premise--of which the reader remains ignorant well into the text--Kafka, who is 15, runs away from home and by virtue of a force no more under the power of his will than pure contingency, he ends up in Takamatsu. As serendipity would have it, this is the very same town to which Mr. Nakata, who has murdered Kafka's father--ignoring the fact that he somehow deposits bloody evidence some distance away from the scene of the crime, where Kafka happens to have blacked out--also eventually travels. Mr. Nakata is one of the more interesting characters in literary history. He is not very smart, not being able to read or write, but he has the singular ability to converse with cats. That is, until he encounters Johnny Walker; whether Mr. Walker is red, black, or blue we have no indication. Suffice it to say that Colonel Sanders is dealing in something more than 12 original herbs and spices these days; though the women for whom he serves as pimp are spicier than anything one may find on one's fried hen, if the example we are introduced to is any indication. Yet, he remains a friend to the community and not simply a trafficker in sex, for without him neither Kafka, Mr. Nakata, nor any number of secondary characters would be able to fulfill their destinies.

So, are you following me? No? Good, then you have some idea, however penurious and nebulous, of what it is like to take a trip to the shore in the mind of Haruki Marakami. Hell, Kafka reads like Kant when placed beside this fantastic phantasmagoric writer the internal logic of whose book is unimpeachable. And this is perhaps the most stunning feat of all the various and sundry Enquirer like activiities that occur in the novel; this most impossible narrative turns out to have been obeying the laws of (dia)logical formations from the very beginning. Though it takes far longer to comprehend this than it does in your average everyday ontologically unstable narrative, the events of the story have unfolded according to a certain necessity, which was laid out from the very first pages: absolutely stunning!

In short, I recommend this intellectual adventure to everyone who thinks it exciting to think differently than one did the day before, and is willing to continue to have one's thinking evolve to the point of devolution. Fortunately, and perhaps this is the true gift that Murakami possesses, the author takes us time and time to the edge of reason and sense, only to pull us back just when we have been convinced that it may be best, if we were to go ahead and plunge body and mind into the abyss. Indeed, for those whose intellectual promiscuity is somewhat more reckless than the average homo sapien, it would be difficult not to feel let down at having been teased with the possibility of a beautifully transgressive literary experience, were it not for the fact that the next available opportunity for trying on a novel identity is found on the very next page or sooner. I do, however, have one rather serious warning; Kafka on the Shore is not for herd animals or for anyone who believes that syllogistic logic is the be all and end all of human intellectual achievemenet, which really amount to the same thing, when one thinks about it. Long live narrative and ontological uncertainty! Long live Haruki Murakami!
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(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
EskimoJenn, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by EskimoJenn)
This was a lovely, dreamy book. I've occupied many pleasurable hours thinking about the story since I read it and I still keep finding new connections among the characters and plot points and cultural references.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 3 readers found this comment helpful)
EskimoJenn, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by EskimoJenn)
This was a lovely, dreamy book. I've occupied many pleasurable hours thinking about the story since I read it and I still keep finding new connections among the characters and plot points and cultural references.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 18 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781400079278
Author:
Murakami, Haruki
Publisher:
Vintage Books USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage International
Publication Date:
20060131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
8.04x5.38x1.08 in. .78 lbs.

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Product details 480 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9781400079278 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Review A Day" by , "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." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "[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."
"Review" by , "[A] real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender....[I]t seems more gripping than it has a right to be and less moving, perhaps, than the author wanted it to be."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "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-)"
"Review" by , "Kafka on the Shore is Murakami's biggest novel in a decade and one of the most fun to read....[I]t feels like a return to Murakami's most whimsical métier."
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