“Kafka on the Shore” is a captivating set of parallel stories written by one of the most celebrated contemporary Japanese authors, Haruki Murakami, whose novels have been translated into many languages and are admired by people all over the world.
The story features characters that are outcasts and rebels, people who do not live with the confines of ordinary life, and who are bound to be different from others. One example is the character Nakata.
Murakami magically composes stories around a boy named Kafka Tamura, who left home at the age of 15 to escape his insincere father. A riddle-like life awaits him as he seeks his mother. The story is based on the ancient Greek myth of Oedipus, which the mythical king of Thebes, Oedipus, fulfils a prophecy by killing his father and marrying his mother. It shows the flaws in human nature and how the course of a life can be determined by an individual’s imagination.
As the story unravel, two lives of Kafka and Nakata, become connected, and are unknotted. The first story orbits around Kafka Tamura, whose name we never know for sure. Tamura runs away from his renowned sculptor father, who feasts on cats’ hearts in order to make flutes from their souls.
The boy ends up in Takamatsu, one of the smallest towns on the Japanese island of Shikoku. Struggling to keep a roof over his head and his gut filled, he meets Oshima, a transgender man who helps him get a job at the library, and Ms Saeki, who is the head librarian.
The second story is occupied mainly by the story of how war refugees who evacuated to Shikoku scavenged for food in the mountains, often losing consciousness for hours. Nakata was unconscious for weeks on one occasion.
Decades after developing his talent for feline speech, Kafka is forced to kill a man claiming to be “Johny Walker” in order to save a cat he was assigned to recover. As innocent and demented as he appears, the police do not take his confession seriously as he admits the murder of Tamura’s father.
He then goes hitchhiking until he finds Hoshino, who stays with him until he reaches Takamatsu. Tamura falls in love with the 15-year-old Ms Saeki and has a sexual affair with the real Ms Saeki. The stories eventually twist around each other and braid themselves together.
This is a book that involves riddles that can be understood differently depending on your interpretations. The author recommends reading this book several times in order to fully comprehend the meanings.
I would not say it is one of the author’s masterpieces like “Norwegian Wood” and “The Wind-up Bird Chronicle,” but it is seductive in its own way.