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Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore (2002)

by Haruki Murakami

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Kafka on the Shore (complete)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,732398260 (4.07)1 / 978
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.… (more)
  1. 131
    The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (LottaBerling)
  2. 50
    Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (GaryN1981)
    GaryN1981: Rushdie is one of the masters of magic realism and anyone who appreciates the way Murakami weaves almost impenetrable surrealism into Kafka... will love Midnights Children
  3. 51
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (PaulBerauer)
  4. 20
    A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (koenvanq)
  5. 00
    The Infinities by John Banville (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: Like Kafka on the Shore, Infinities plays with multiple points of view, alternate realities, and riffs on other works (in this case Kleist's Amphitryon). Both Murakami and Banville tackle big ideas directly and indirectly through the structures of their books. Banville, in my opinion, pulls this off more coherently.… (more)
  6. 00
    Anathema Rhodes: Dreams by Iimani David (Mary_Z)
    Mary_Z: I enjoyed both these books for their mysticism and freshness. "Anathema Rhodes" has more challenges and is clearly more socially and politically conscious, but the feel and flow of the story reminds me of Murakami's "Kafka...". I sincerely recommend both!
  7. 00
    Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley (somethingauthentic)
  8. 02
    Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo (LottaBerling)
  9. 38
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel (tandah)

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English (336)  French (15)  Dutch (12)  Spanish (9)  Danish (5)  Catalan (4)  Finnish (3)  Italian (3)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (2)  Hungarian (1)  Polish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Estonian (1)  All languages (397)
Showing 1-5 of 336 (next | show all)
If you remember me, then I don't care if everyone else forgets.

Quite imperfect on quite many levels.

First of all - there are many logical gaps on the novel - many places where this just doesn't add up. Some things are hinted but never explained, some characters are just laid off without any previous explanations and so on. Also, where Colonel Sanders went, or what was his relations with Johnnie Walker, or even JW's relations with Kafka's father - none of these is explained. I was waiting for a spectacular finish like Wind-up Bird chronicles, and all I got was disappointments.

Still, gave three stars because of some nice and heartwarming quotes - those might help me later. ( )
  MahiShafiullah | May 25, 2020 |
Have you ever experienced one of those realistic dreams that take place in the time and space between sleep and waking up? Anything is possible that realm. And no matter how outrageous it might seem later, at the time everything feels more vivid and more real than your waking world? For that moment in time, and despite all appearances to the contrary, your ability to discern connections runs free of logical restraints.

Kafka on the Shore reads like one of those dreams. It's something apart from your daily world. You think it's spilling over into your waking memories, but if you take a closer look, you recognize how it's always been a part of you and always will be.

And just like one of those dreams - one so fabulous, so fantastic, and so utterly involving - you don't want it to end.

What makes it so? The poetry of Mr Murakami's metaphors strike deep. His characters are well drawn, each one unique in their uniqueness. They're not transparent and definitely not predictable. To say what or who they are would not do them justice and would sell your experience short. However, when it's all said and done, and if you open yourself up to the self understanding, it's not difficult to see that each one is a part of you.

And the story itself? Well, like Nakata or Hoshino, you must be patient to see where events take you. Just when you think you have it figured out, Mr Murakami adds another twist to the plot or to the metaphor in play all the way up to a very perfect ending. And you still don't want the dream to end even though the alarm clock of the last word on the last page is ringing out, telling you the dream is over and it's time to put the book down. ( )
  modioperandi | May 12, 2020 |
I have conflicting feelings about Kafka on the Shore, and I don't expect to clarify any of my thoughts on the book anytime soon.

The book is surreal, and that's fine for the most part. All kinds of weird stuff happens all the time. There's traveling between worlds, unexplainable miracles, talking cats, and much more. Most of it was directly involved in the plot, and most of it was OK. Sometimes, though, I felt that Haruki Murakami was just being kooky for the sake of kookiness. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to understand everything in the book. Maybe I'm taking it to seriously. But if you read this book and go through the passages involving Colonel Sanders without going, "Seriously, dude. Chill out with this shit!" then you're a bigger man than I am.

Additionally, there's a thin line between weird sex and shouldn't-be-happening sex, and every reader of Murakami is forced to make a judgment call on questionable sex in just about every one of his novels. In Kafka on the Shore, however, I don't think any argument can be made for any of the sex Kafka Tamura has to be just weird. It's bad, and it shouldn't be happening, and once again, like in Norwegian Wood, Murakami is a little too soft on the psychological ramifications of shouldn't-be-happening sex.

Really though, I feel like I'd make more excuses for the book if I'd just liked the characters more. Nakata and Oshima were cool enough, but I wanted absolutely nothing to do with Kafka. If you stuck Toru Okada in there instead, who knows, I might have loved every word.

I see that I'm writing more harshly than I'm rating. It's probably just because I know how much better Murakami can be than this. Kafka on the Shore doesn't suck by any stretch of the imagination, but I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I won't be reading it again. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
*Kafka on the Shore* was one of those books I fought with until about three-quarters of the way through, when the wind was at my back and we started sailing and everything was smooth and beautiful. I started reading it on the recommendation of some friends online, who thankfully didn’t tell me anything about it, other than that if I wanted something light and liked magical realism, I should read it, or if I wanted something dark and moody, I should read *The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles*. So I chose light.

“Magical Realism” is a frustrating category to slot something into, because it’s never clear what that means in the context of the book. Does that mean that our grip on inductive inference and causality slips a little bit and has some slack to flap around in the wind? Or does it mean that descriptions of things are to be taken more as metaphor and less as objective truth? Or does it mean the author has given up on creating a fully cohesive and linear narrative and is throwing scenes and descriptions and people at the page to try to communicate something they couldn’t communicate otherwise. (As a wise reader once said, Tolstoy had some ideas and tried to explain them to his neighbors, who didn’t understand, so he went off and wrote a book about a lady and train safety to say what he couldn’t say directly.)

*Kafka on the Shore* falls into the last category here, I think. But that was only apparent after reading most of the book. In the beginning I was frustrated by the protagonist Kafka and his teenage logic and over-reliance on values of toughness, strength, and solitude. I think that was just good writing, rather than some seepage from the author through the page. That relationship continued through most of the book, where someone or something would bubble up and I would get frustrated with their description, or what they said, or how they described something else. (I still think describing Price playing in the background as “like a mollusk in your head” is either a translation error or an artifact of the kind of popular literati writing between 1995–2005.)

Perhaps the first three-quarters of the book are the setup I needed to get in the headspace where the last quarter could do its work, where it does become a world of loose categories and concepts, of nonlinear time, of impressions and scattered paint. If this book makes sense in a way that can be written down and described linearly then I missed that. But I don’t think that’s an important part of the experience of reading it.

All of the following was written before I read the last quarter. It's still relevant, but I like the book more and have warm and gentle feelings with it. There are still some ambiguities, and some expressions in the face of death and change that I disagree with, or think maybe are against my experiences and lessons with those things, but I liked the book and will more readily some of his other work.

- - -

It’s a confusing book. There are rapes, but it’s all washed up in this person being a representation of this memory, or maybe not, or whatever, and it’s a big psychosexual mess. In one sense that makes it exciting as a kind of vague representational poem, so I like it for that, but on the other hand, this lady rapes this kid, this kid rapes this other woman in a dream, but it’s real(?), there’s cat murder, but maybe it was metaphorical, or not, and there are embodied concepts that show up as people and act in the world. It’s not a *consistent* book but it’s not supposed to be. It’s interesting. Some of the descriptions, though, are really... bad. It’s a kind of writing that flourished between 1995 and 2005, and came in the tail-end of that trend: “Prince sings on, like some mollusk in your head.” I don’t understand Kafka’s *why*, why he’s doing most of the things he’s doing in the book. I very much like the “discussions” with the boy named Crow, and the turn from first-person to second-person in some places. (Nightvale’s *The Story of You* is one of the better things written this decade.) All in all I enjoyed it and it certainly evoked a reaction in me throughout, where I was talking to the book, asking it what the fuck was going on, expressing disappointment in this or that character, asking the author why this was happening after that happened. That’s a good sign, even if the book didn’t sign to me like a chorus of angels like *Moby Dick* or *Swann’s Way*. What I don’t like is the ambiguity between the author-as-character and the author and the character. Kafka’s written as this kind of old soul but is still a petulant little kid. There’s almost no discussion of masculinity or the toxicity present in Kafka’s actions *as a man*. That’s frustrating, but perhaps it’s an expectation of me and the time we’re in and the place I am in my life, where I look back at myself at that age and think mostly about what an utter fuck I was as a result of those expectations. ( )
  jtth | May 4, 2020 |
I found it odd that my friend enjoyed this novel more than The Wind-up Bird Chronicle the latter had overwhelmed me upon my first reading, and this being my second Murakami novel, it merely confused me. I thought it messy. And it does not stand up to a second reading in my opinion, not like Wind-Up Bird Chronicle does. Whereas the Chronicle seemed like a masterpiece pulled out of some dream dreamt at the bottom of a well, Kafka on the Shore seems like a deliberate attempt to run towards something. He was searching for a voice he had perhaps lost for a while, when he wrote it. Taking a much younger narrator an overly complex voice and a much older one with an overly simple voice made the novel seem lopsided. Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World on the other hand was a much more focused experience. You don’t get the same sense of aimless wandering. Either Kafka on the Shore should have been three hundred pages shorter of four hundred pages longer, in my opinion. Only the most violent scene between Nakata and Johnnie Walker hearken back to the scare tactics of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. That scene makes the rest of the novel too tame. It was almost enough to give me nightmares, but instead of sustaining that pitch, he galloped all over the place, roping in a bunch of enigmatic pseudo-symbols, betraying his lack of a plan in the beginning and resolving the only true story he had going for him. Truly, the whole Nakata section could have been ripped out and placed at the center of a different novel where there was some chance of getting something out of it. Kafka’s story itself had its merits, its highs and lows, and was overall an effective piece of storytelling with a few questionable holes I might have forgiven Murakami if he’d left it at that.
In the end I think Jay Rubin pins down the novels inconsistencies well in his critique in his biography of Murakami. The novel is built of inconsistencies. One finds oneself asking “why” at the end of almost every chapter, but reading on nonetheless. Even on my second reading I got taken in again by Murakami’s inimitable voice. Even knowing what came next didn’t dissuade me. The man knows how to cast a spell.
( )
  LSPopovich | Apr 8, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 336 (next | show all)
The weird, stately urgency of Murakami's novels comes from their preoccupation with . . . internal problems; you can imagine each as a drama acted out within a single psyche. In each, a self lies in pieces and must be put back together; a life that is stalled must be kick-started and relaunched into the bruising but necessary process of change. Reconciling us to that necessity is something stories have done for humanity since time immemorial. Dreams do it, too. But while 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.
Maar net zoals in de rest van Murakami’s omvangrijke oeuvre blijft het niet bij het wegloop-realisme van de hoofdpersoon. Onverklaarbare wendingen, bovennatuurlijke verschijnselen, irreële toevalligheden en onwaarschijnlijke personages roepen bij de nuchtere lezer al snel de vraag op waarom hij in godsnaam maar blijft dóórlezen.
Kafka Tamura se va de casa el día en que cumple quince años. La razón, si es que la hay, son las malas relaciones con su padre, un escultor famoso convencido de que su hijo habrá de repetir el aciago sino del Edipo de la tragedia clásica, y la sensación de vacío producida por la ausencia de su madre y su hermana, a quienes apenas recuerda porque también se marcharon de casa cuando era muy pequeño. El azar, o el destino, le llevarán al sur del país, a Takamatsu, donde encontrará refugio en una peculiar biblioteca y conocerá a una misteriosa mujer mayor, tan mayor que podría ser su madre, llamada Saeki. Si sobre la vida de Kafka se cierne la tragedia –en el sentido clásico–, sobre la de Satoru Nakata ya se ha abatido –en el sentido real–: de niño, durante la segunda guerra mundial, sufrió un extraño accidente que lo marcaría de por vida. En una excursión escolar por el bosque, él y sus compañeros cayeron en coma; pero sólo Nakata salió con secuelas, sumido en una especie de olvido de sí, con dificultades para expresarse y comunicarse... salvo con los gatos. A los sesenta años, pobre y solitario, abandona Tokio tras un oscuro incidente y emprende un viaje que le llevará a la biblioteca de Takamatsu. Vidas y destinos se van entretejiendo en un curso inexorable que no atiende a razones ni voluntades. Pero a veces hasta los oráculos se equivocan.
”Et stort verk, men likevel lekende lett lesning.”

» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Haruki Murakamiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gabriel, PhilipTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gräfe, UrsulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Porta, LourdesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westerhoven, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"So you're all set for money, then?" the boy named Crow asks in his characteristic sluggish voice.
"... in everybody's life there's a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can't go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That's how we survive."
"Listening to Fournier's flowing, dignified cello, Honshino was drawn back to his childhood. He used to go to the river everyday to catch fish. Nothing to worry about back then. he reminisced. Just live each day as it came. As long as I was alive, I was something. That was just how it was. But somewhere along the line it all changed. Living turned me into nothing. Weird...People are born in order to live, right? But the longer I've lived, the more I've lost what's inside me–and ended up empty. And I bet the longer I live, the emptier, the more worthless, I'll become. Something's wrong with this picture. Life isn't supposed to turn out like this! Isn't it possible to shift direction, to change where I'm headed?"
The air was damp and stagnant, with a hint of something suspicious, as if countless ears were floating in the air, waiting to pick up a trace of some conspiracy.
I'd never imagined that trees could be so weird and unearthly. I mean, the only plants I've ever really seen or touched till now are the city kind--neatly trimmed and cared-for bushes and trees. But the ones here--the ones living here--are totally different. They have a physical power, their breath grazing any humans who might chance by, their gaze zeroing in on the intruder like they've spotted their prey. Like they have some dark, prehistroric, magical powers. Like deep-sea creatures rule the ocean depths, in the forest trees reign supreme. If it wanted to, the forest could reject me--or swallow me up whole. A healthy amount of fear and respect might be a good idea.
There's only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes.
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