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Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

a novel by Haruki Murakami

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Suspend your Expectations.

  • Jul 9, 2010

If you are willing to suspend your want of reasons, solutions, character growth or resolution, "Kafka" is for you.  Another review spoke of Murakami as a creator of playgrounds rather than a writer of novels; this is completely true.

"Kafka on the Shore" follows the perspective of two characters.  First is "Kafka," a 15-year-old runaway who is both encouraged and questioned by the boy, Crow, who exists only in his mind.  The second is Nakata, an older man with limited mental capacity on state assistance who is able to talk to cats.  While never answering all of your questions, these characters and those they encounter are all beautifully described and complex and never seem to resort to stereotypes.  Writers who study queer theory might find this particularly interesting because of the existence of a transgendered character, who for the sake of keeping spoilers out will go unnamed. Cat lovers in particular will adore Murakami's description of Nakata's kitty clients, though may find themselves biting their nails as some of his feline friends find themselves in danger.

I particularly enjoyed this book because of all the humor in it. There are numerous cultural references and jokes on Western companies that I had no idea were as widespread in Japan as they were in America; there are two characters called Colonel Sanders and Johnnie Walker, and are meant to resemble both marketing icons.  "Kafka" is a fantastic example of postmodern magical realism, but there is so much reality that when fantastic things happen it seems perfectly possible. 

The most common criticism of this novel is that there isn't much of an ending, but I believe that adds to its charm. Murakami sets a loaded gun on the mantel and never fires it.  There is always something new and there is always something interesting, and if you can take it as it is you will not be disappointed with where it takes you.

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More Kafka on the Shore reviews
review by . June 12, 2010
I'll state why:      Haruki Murakami is not your conventional author. He's not your conventional anything, as a matter of fact. Actually his novels are playgrounds rather than novels, his characters morphing every minute as they deal with the incongruities of the unchanging swings, monkey bars, slides, and odd tic-tac-toe blocks that I myself never made any use of. They become cramped, find brief repose as the wind rides through their hair as they swing like a pendulum, …
review by . August 06, 2010
I found Haruki Kurami’s writing style to be somewhat bland and typical, nothing special like I was hoping for.  I did like his narrative style; he had multiple stories running along side one another.  It left me trying to find connections between the story lines, which Kurami gave subtle hints at, foreshadowing events to come, fates to meet.  All the story lines very nearly converged into one, but still kept their separate point of view.    Kurami’s plot …
Quick Tip by . July 21, 2010
my absolute favorite book by murakami. i always think of murakami as the japanese answer to magical realism -
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
Haruki Murakami... good job on this one. I quite liked it.
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2010
great book, incredibly bizarre, but surreal and beautiful
About the reviewer
Melissa ()
Ranked #666
I'm a recent grad working on a writing career while reading whatever I can get my hands on. I to go where my experiences take me.
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 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 ...
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ISBN-10: 1400079276 (pbk.)
ISBN-13: 9781400079278 (pbk.)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: January 3, 2006
Format: Umibe no Kafuka. Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.
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