Monday, February 9, 2009

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Title: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
Paperback: 480 Pages
Publisher: Vintage
Translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel

Winner of World Fantasy Award & Franz Kafka Prize 2006

Reading Murakami is more like an out-of-the-world experience for me. Its like my brain going into overdrive mode forming active neural connections after being exposed to all sorts of wacky stuff. I guess it might be a good idea to read his novels from time to time for a good brain workout. An intriguing plot doused with mystery and weirdness, quirky characters, bizarre events, jaw-dropping moments, perplexing endings could pretty much sum up what you could possibly expect in Murakami books. Initially, I used to feel utterly bewildered at why certain things are left the way it is. I needed a proper closure - or a happily ever after kind of ending - when I read novels. To be honest, I used to feel a little frustrated with his stories. But, an invisible magical bond pulled me towards his books again and again. The more I read it, the more I began to appreciate his books. It made me realize that Murakami was different; his books defied categorization; they were unique; unlike any other. I began to enjoy his style of writing. In fact, the very things that put me off in the beginning is what I am looking forward to in his books nowadays.

Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old boy, flees home in search of his long lost mother and sister. Apart from the essentials for his runaway trip, the only memory he took with him was a photo he found in his father's study. More than he wanted to find his mother and sibling, perhaps, he wanted to escape the dark prophesy predicted by his father. He seeks refuge in a quiet, private library in Takamatsu. He befriends Oshima, the assistant librarian and Miss Saeki, the owner. He spends day after day reading books and working out at the local gym. Another parallel story that runs is that of Mr. Nakata. Having lost his ability to read and write due to a tragic event that happened during his childhood, Nakata now in his early sixties lives off of a pension from the government for the mentally disabled people. He brings in some extra cash as a cat-catcher, thanks to his uncanny ability to converse with cats. During one of his pursuits looking for a missing cat, he meets Johnny Walker, another bizarre character. And what happens between Johnny Walker and Nakata changes his fate forever. He finds himself on the run but not before he makes more weird things happen. With the aid of Hoshino, a truck driver, he leaves town with no idea of where he is heading. Nakata and Kafka's fate are linked to each other and when their paths converge towards the end, as it is bound to happen, more and more unbelievable events begin to unfold.

I couldn't believe what I was reading; And I was propelled by a strong desire to know where the story was heading. I couldn't comprehend where the reality ended and where the fantasy began. Sometimes I couldn't make a head or tail out of it. But, it was hard for me to put down. I don't know if it could get any weirder than this. Fish and Leeches fall from the sky; You meet someone who can talk to cats; Living spirits and ghosts make the most bizarre appearances and do wacky things; his quirky characters walk in and out of dreams like its no big deal; Yet, there is something equally bizarre about this book that drew me towards it. I was totally captivated by the strange plot and I found myself racing through the book. I couldn't wait to finish the novel, but when I did I wanted to read it again. It was totally mesmerizing, utterly perplexing and a purely magical experience!!

My Rating: 4.5/5


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

er book I've been meaning to read; great review.

Radha said...

I haven't read Kafka; but I'm a huge fan of Murakami. I think he's brilliant.

The Bookaholic said...

Whao! this is really good...enjoyed reading this review, makes me want to read the book. Well done...