Five Things About... Kafka on the Shore


I’ve owned this book for a very, very long time- so long that there’s a sticker for $14.95 from Borders (rip) on the back. I’m so angry at myself for waiting so long to get to it- if I had read it twelve years ago (or whatever) I would have probably read half his backlist by now. 

The timing of reading this book was perfect- coincidentally I am teaching Sophocles’ Antigone right now and am moving into Kafka’s Metamorphosis soon, both of which are tied to this text. Oedipus’ curse of killing his dad, sleeping with his mom, and finding himself in exile is also that of the main character, while Kafka-esque existentialism runs rampant (although interestingly, there’s a lot of absurdism in the text as well, which is not the same). There’s so much to unpack on a philosophical level that I probably need to read it again someday. 

This is my third Murakami book and I’m yet again so appreciative of his prose. He has this sort of ethereal quality that makes Japan seem sort of mysterious or delicate. His descriptions are perfect, his subtle wit is ever-present, and his dialogue spot on. He is notorious for his poorly-written sex scenes (I think he’s even won mock awards for this!), though, and this one does not disappoint. We’ll forgive him. 

There were many characters I was quite fond of, but the elderly Nakata, who has no memory of this past and can talk to cats was my favorite. 

The ending was a big fat slap in the face of WTFery; let’s just say slow-to-die giant slug emerging from a dead body level strangeness. I have my theories about that whole scene, and many other strange ones, but sometimes you have to accept magical realism, reading a book with cultural allusions and ties you might not understand, and the author’s own internal projections. I love reading about this book, but I’m also okay not truly understanding every piece of it. Fun fact- after this was written the publisher set up a website with questions, which topped out at 8,000ish. Murakami a answered 1,200, but unfortunately many haven’t been translated.

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