Anyone who is familiar with Haruki Murakami’s works will find ‘Kafka on the Shore‘ yet another Murakami-ish puzzling and alluring tale of talking cats, fish falling from the sky and a spirit of all sorts, Colonel Sanders. The book is full of riddles and questions left unanswered that can be inviting and intriguing on the hand and annoying and painful on the other.
The story follows the journey of two seemingly unrelated characters – Kafka and Nakata. Kafka is a 15-year old runaway, stoic, methodical and mature. As he says in the first line,
“My fifteenth birthday is the ideal time to run away from home. Any earlier and it’d be too soon. Any later and I would have missed my chance.”
He runs away to escape his father’s unimaginable prophecy that may or may not come true. On the bus, he meets Sakura, who he believes to be his sister. He takes up refuge in a quaint library and under the guidance of Oshima, works there. When he comes across the head librarian, Ms. Saeki, he falls in love with her and strongly believes she is his mother.
The other protagonist is Nataka. He was a bright little boy, perhaps the smartest in his class. But during mushroom picking on a hill, an unexplainable turn of events leaves Nataka wiped clean of his memory. He is left illiterate and quite abandoned by his family. Now, as an old man, he lives on the Government’s pension for the old, with an extraordinary talent of talking to cats. Using this talent, he finds lost cats and earns an extra income. When he is suddenly in search of his destiny, a truck driver called Hoshino helps him because he looks his grandfather and in the end, is extremely attached to him. They move in the same direction, physically as did Kafka and there it is that the two protagonists meet.
Murakami draws a distinction between the two characters; Nakata is a blank slate, ready to absorb any memory whereas Kafka is trying to rid himself of every possible memory of his. While we wait patiently for the intertwining of both characters, Murakami drops various philosophical, historical, musical and literary clues to piece together this puzzle. The book is the true sense of a metaphor, remaining mystical and magical till the very end. As the undercurrent in most Murakami novels, this too has the theme of self discovery and self actualisation. Murakami attaches significance to every little thing that leaves us guessing about the true meaning of this complex and famous work. But in the end, we’re just as clueless as we were in the beginning.
“In dreams begins responsibilities.”
As in every Murakami novel, the musical attribute is present, where the title of the book is the basis of a song sung by Ms. Saeki. The book, in its style of writing is completely poetic and takes you in, leaving you breathless. The fast paced story keeps you entranced and it is a page-turner for sure. But whether the book is satisfying or unsatisfying is a question difficult to answer as the book leaves you thirsting for more and still confused at all the allegories and metaphor that Murakami has sprinkled excessively throughout the book. This book is a difficult read, that’s for sure, but one that’s fun and keeps you thinking about it even days later. Another problem with the book is that it has too many wonderful quotes, which when you think about it, isn’t really a problem at all.
In an interview, Murakami talks about how to “decode” ‘Kafka on the Shore’,
“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 kind of novel I set out to write.”
Overall Rating: 9/10
Chaarvi is a mixture of sugar, spice and everything nice, with just a hint of Chemical X. Or maybe more. Unsure of what to focus on, she has a foot in everything – be it music, movies or books. Or even fashion. Or cooking. Or politics. Or Economics. Well, you get the drift. She is a hater of chick lit and all the riff-raff that comes along with it. Spends too much time on the internet researching on things that will come handy nowhere in life. But in reality, she’s a ninja and you better know it.
If you find the book interesting, buy from Amazon or Flipkart here: