This review is about Kafka on the Shore; a novel by Haruki Murakami. This is my second Murakami novel. My copy has 505 pages.
“Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down. Their parallel odysseys are enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerising dramas. Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghostlike pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle. Murakami's novel is at once a classic quest, but it is also a bold exploration of mythic and contemporary taboos, of patricide, of mother-love, of sister-love. “
This was a very strange novel. There are parts of it I loved and parts I had to push myself to read further. The first half of the novel flew by. The second part however was too long; it was a much slower read and a bit boring at times.
This is a very inventive novel, something unlike anything I have read before.
Most of the chapters about Kafka were wonderful. I was quite intrigued by him and I wanted to know more about him. He’s a strange boy and I loved him in the first part. Right up until he starts sleeping with miss Saeki.
Reading about Tanaka was a different experience. The scene where those cats were killed was superfluous and unnecessary. What was the point of that? There is no freaking point to this scene whatsoever. But Tanaka is a wonderful character. Him, I loved more by the end notwithstanding the surreal and incomprehensible events around him.
Murakami could have cut 100 pages easily because the novel was a bit tedious.
The way Oshima talks, his self-importance and his sermons about ‘important stuff’ were just annoying. It felt forced, contrived and a way for Murakami to show off his knowledge.
And every word about sex Murakami wrote was bad. And I mean really bad. He could have won the Bad Sex in Fiction Award in my opinion.
I don’t mind reading a novel without a completely rounded and satisfying ending. This makes you think about the novel. But this? So many things we never learn, so many situations never explained, characters never revisited. There were too many loose ends. What caused the children to faint? Who killed Kafka’s father? Was it Tanaka used by Kafka or Kafka himself? What about The Boy Named Crow? What about this prophesy Kafka’s father made? To me, it feels as an uncompleted novel. Or rather as a test by Murakami about how much stuff he can put in one novel and people will still love it.
And all those supernatural elements are never explained on how to interpret them. How does it all fit together? Is it meant as a surreal novel with supernatural elements or are we supposed to interpret it as is?
The main feeling I have after reading this book is ‘maybe I do not understand this novel at all’ or ‘maybe this is just a bad novel’.
I loved both the protagonists, the novel itself; not so much.
Time to relax.