I recently finished re-reading one of my favourite books of all time and I thought it was a fitting time to return with another review for my segment of Favourite Books. Today’s title is Kafka On The Shore (pt. Kafka À Beira-Mar) by Haruki Murakami.
Find any edition at Book Depository
A few years ago, during my first big depression, a friend of mine recommended me this book. At the time, I had no idea who Murakami was and how much he would eventually change my life.
Haruki Murakami is a japanese writer, born in 1949. For several years now, his work has put him in the spotlight for the Nobel Prize for Literature, even though he hasn’t won it yet (which is utterly unfair, in my opinion). He has a very specific style, full of surrealist and melancholic moments. There’s also a lot of constant elements throughout his books like cats and a jazz bar, with an owner always willing to have philosophical conversations.
When I heard about his style and subjects of writing, I never thought I would love his books so much. Dali and Buñuel never had a great impact in me so I couldn’t see how Murakami would. But I was so wrong! Surrealism is what I love in his work. How our little world is completely changed in just one moment. Everything is full of fantasy and sometimes even some kind of “magic”. It’s wonderful how what we think we know without any type of doubt is completely challenged in his books. But now onto this particular one.
Kafka On The Shore tells the story of two characters: Kafka Tamura and Satoru Nakata. Kafka is a fifteen year old boy who runs away from home in order to try to prevent his father’s curse (or prophecy, how you want to put it) to come true. He’s supposed to kill his father and sleep with his own mother and sister. On the other hand, Nakata in a sixty-something man, with a slight disability. When he was a kid, he had an accident and, when he woke up from a comma, he lost all the ability to read and write. To compensate that, he’s able to talk with cats and a lot of other quirky things. He ends up getting into some trouble and leaves his quiet Tokyo neighbourhood to travel with a young truck-driver, Hoshino, in order to find a lot of special things. Of course that these two characters’ stories aren’t as unrelated as they seem to be.
I simply love every single thing about this book. It has just the right amount of melancholy and fantasy. All the components of the story balance each other so perfectly, creating what I think to be a masterpiece. Above all, the situations aren’t relatable but the feelings are. Which is absolutely the most important thing to me. Although is full of sadness, I can’t help but feeling very hopeful whenever I finish this book. No matter how messed up your life seems to be, you can always get up and try to put everything back together and be the person you really want to be. That’s something I really need to start living by. I’m a bit like Alice, “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it”.
Anyway, as much as I love this book (and the rest of Murakami’s work for that matter), I have to admit that it’s sometimes a challenge to read them. There isn’t always things happening. Most events aren’t even that relevant to the end game. I guess that can throw people away from his books, they might think they’re boring. But one thing is certain, without these somewhat “useless” events, the characters wouldn’t be the people they need to be. Speaking of characters, Nakata is by far my favourite. I can relate to him the least but he is so pure and gentle that I have nothing to point out in him. He makes me warm inside with how special he is. I’ve never actually thought about it but I’ve come to realize that he’s probably one of my favourite characters ever.
Also, if you want a legit ending, don’t read this book. Or any other Murakami work for that matter. There is no such thing in most of his books. Most likely, you’ll end with more questions than the ones you already had in the beginning. Also,you won’t even get an answer for most of those. As Murakami often puts it, his books are filled with riddles and he doesn’t want to give answers. The reader has to come up with their own. That’s why there’s numberless theories revolving his books online.
Now I feel like this review turned out to be a lot more about Murakami’s work than this particular book. I guess that happened because I seriously love his work. But, I been also realising that it’s difficult for me to talk about a certain book and do a fair review. My feelings often get in the way and I’m not sure that I’m being completely objective. Anyway, I hope all of this made sense.
A favourite quotes was very hard so here’s my favourite coupe of paragraphs!
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
I still have a lot of his works (and other asian authors) to read but I expect to never stop. There’s not a lot of greatness in the world like the one this man has, and I want to slowly absorve it all. As for the ones I already read, I just can’t wait to re-read them all over and over again. It just never gets old and I always find a little detail that slipped before.
Thank you for sticking around! Hope to see you soon,