Ready to hear about the craziest novel I’ve ever read? Great! This week’s In My Opinion Review is on Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami.
This novel is poetic, abstract, sexual, and hard-hitting. And it makes almost no sense. It’s awesome. A friend of mine got me this book a while ago and I’ve been dutifully going through my to-read pile to get to it. I read it quickly since the action is throughout and the questions of “what the hell is really going on here?” start at about the second chapter. Haruki Murakami is a fantastic writer – I still really enjoyed the novel despite its prevailing confusion, and apparently so did many other people. There are tons of great fan art online, lots of translations and editions, and it’s even an incredible play in Chicago!
But the novel is a bit tricky to understand. Murakami, the author himself, stated this about the novel’s meaning and understanding:
“Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the book I set out to write.”
Yeah. Have fun reading. But the crazy thing about this novel is that you will enjoy reading it. Allow me to explain. Ahem...
PLOT: The plot is honestly a little hard to grasp at first, but it makes the novel come together at the end miraculously. The novel follows two view points that at first have nothing to do with each other, but soon become intertwined to their core. All of the odd numbered chapters follow a 15 year-old boy named Kafka Tamura and how he’s trying to escape his obviously twisted father’s control. But Kakfa isn’t his real first name and for the whole story you never find out what it really is. But if you think that’s mysterious, then meet Mr. Nakata, who’s story is told in all of the even numbered chapters. Nakata is unique. He can talk to cats, he died in Kindergarden, and he speak with rocks. And that’s less than half of the crazy stuff he does. Now, take these two characters, throw them in modern Japan, and let the story begin! You’ll be dealing with lots of magical realism, post WWII Japan, plenty of sexuality, and how music permeates us all. Enjoy!
CHARACTERS: Fantastic characters in this novel. From the main characters Kafka and Nakata, to the supporting ones Hoshino and Oshima. I really related with Hoshino throughout the novel, more than Kafka. But it’s not as if I disliked any of the characters, they were perfectly written; saying exactly what needed to be said and communicating the rest through body language. Very well written. Except for the Boy named Crow. The heck was going on there? Still confused.
IMAGERY: Spot on. A little too spot on, actually. Apparently, one of the things Murakami is known for, like Stephen King, is his ability to invest so much writing into mundane, unimportant details. Like spending pages upon pages describing a forest and the sky above it. But from my understanding, Japanese literature is more poetic than Western lit, and so they sometimes take more liberties in restating what the reader already knows, but in a more poetic and artistic way. Hence why you’ll get to read so so much about what a group of trees looks like. So much. A complaint I do have would probably be about the sex scenes in the novel. I’d say they went a little overboard, touching into graphic territory. But again, apparently that’s something Murakami is known for; being sexual to the point that the reader might start asking themselves, “Really? They’re still going at it? Alright, just give me the highlights and get back to the story, please. Please! Seriously! Another page of this, are you kidding? Oi! Jeez! Wow, she’s adventurous. Aaaaand, we’re back to the story.”
VERDICT: Are you over eighteen? Do you like unraveling mysteries in novels to discover more about characters and the world they’re in? Do you like sex scenes? Then this novel’s for you! In My Opinion this was a great novel, and I’ll definitely be checking out more of Murakami in the future. Many people have said to understand Kafka on The Shore better, it’s a good idea to check out some of his earlier works, and that’s what I intend to do. In My Opinion this book is definitely worth checking out, if for no other reason than to leap from your comfort zone and look at things from a totally different perspective.
In closing I’ll leave you with some more photos from the play and fans.