I finished reading Kafka on the Shore 3 days ago, but even now, I still can’t find the right words to describe it, let alone “review” it.
If’ you are familiar with Haruki Murakami’s other novels, Kafka on the Shore will not be too much of a surprise – having chosen it because it’s by Murakami, you might even be looking forward to it being strange and surreal. On that level, you certainly will not be disappointed.
Kafka on the Shore is about a 15-year-old boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home to escape, or perhaps, to fulfill, a strange family curse. It’s also about an elderly man with the uncanny ability to talk to cats, who goes on a journey to find and do something he doesn’t quite know yet.
It is a bildungsroman, Oedipal Greek tragedy, mystery, love story, comedy all rolled into one and held together by a type of magical realism that is characteristically Murakami.
To say that Kafka on the Shore is confusing would be an understatement. It is full of riddles, mysteries, and unanswered questions. It is also a perplexing mix of Greek mythology, philosophy, Western classical music, and pop culture.
Kafka on the Shore is a hugely entertaining book where cats talk, and leeches fall from the sky; where Johnnie Walker is an insane cat-hater and Colonel Sanders is a pimp. Call it “confusing,” call it “frustrating,” call it “weird,” call it what you will, but the one thing I guarantee is you won’t call it “dull” or “boring.”
Having said all that, I didn’t like this novel as much as I thought I would, or as much as I liked his other novel, 1Q84, despite their similarities. I think the main reasons why I didn’t enjoy this novel as much was because most of what Murakami wanted to say in it escaped me. Certainly a shortcoming on my part, and not on the part of the author.
So, if you’re like me who enjoy the occasional surreal fiction full of mysteries and riddles, but expect them to be answered, more or less, toward the end of the book, whether directly or indirectly, then I would recommend you stay away from this novel. On the other hand, if you like postmodern, metaphysical, mind-boggling puzzles that you can try to decipher until your brain bleeds, then this novel is definitely for you.
Kafka on the Shore (2005) – Haruki Murakami
Vintage; 489 pages
Personal rating: 2.5/5