Saturday, March 25, 2006

Kafka On the Shore - Haruki Murakami

I picked up this book based on a blogger's review. Haruki Murakami is one of the leading Japanese authors and is known for his short stories regularaly published in New Yorker. Kafka on the Shore is a translation of his latest novel. This was the first Murakami book I read.

I was unprepared for what hit me is an understatement. Half way through the book I confidently wrote to a blogger, "I expected it to be full of metaphors and imagery, but it is not so". How wrong one can be.

The story is about the lives of a 15 year old Kafka Tamura (his adopted name) who runs away from his home to escape his father's prophecy and a 60 year old man Mr. Nakata, who cannot read or write (due to an incident in his childhood) but an talk with cats. Kafka runs away to Shikoku, and finds a private library where he joins as an assistant. The library is run by one Ms. Saeki and Oshima. One day, he finds himself dripping with someone's blood but has not idea of whose blood it is or whether he killed some one or not. Nakata on the other hand is forced to kill some one to save the cats, but he is free of blood. So who killed whom? Nakata goes to the police station saying that he killed somebody, the police don't believe it. He also says that the next day Sardines are going to rain from the sky. Nakata goes to Shikoku based on his intuition. He is helped by a trucker Hoshino, who slowly begins to idolize Nakata, the simple man who can't read or write.

Do the lead characters meet? What is the metaphorical meaning? Does the prophecy of Kafka's father come true? Well you have to read the book to find it. The last 100 pages were rushing like a train and suddenly there is no track and the train abruptly stops. You look around for whether you have reached the destination, and finding you are in the middle of no where, look back at your journey. It is then things start making sense, even then not completely.

Murakami's writing is addictive. His narrative is interspersed with profound thoughts and cheesy dialogues. There are references to Chekov, Kafka, Yeats and Greek tragedies. If you understand the references, it will be more fun. Of course a lot of it went over my head.

There was this paragraph, almost straight out of Nilu Anton Chekhov put it best when he said, 'If a pistol appears in a story, eventually, it's got to be fired'. What Chekhov was getting at is this: necessity is an independent concept. It has a different structure from logic, morals, or meaning. Its function lies entirely in the role it plays. What doesn't play a role shouldn't exist. What necessity requires does need to exist. That's what you call dramaturgy. Logic, morals, or meaning don't have anything to do with it. It's all a question of relationality.

That sentence was spoken by an insensate person dressed like Col. Sanders. Col. Sanders has just pimped for Hoshino. Hoshino asks him, why are you dressed like Col. Sanders and Sanders replies, �I wanted to become Mickey Mouse, but Disney had copyright issues�. Hoshino goes, �Also, I wouldn�t have wanted Mickey Mouse to pimp for me�.

Read a better review by Stochastica Karthik, which made me pick up the book in first place.


Echo/Lavanya said...

I finally bought my copy of Kafka on the Shore yesterday and am going to be reading it soon. Your post was timely in urging me along. Yeah, Karthik's review was what prompted me to buy it too.

R S said...

I eard its an absurdist novel. true?

tilotamma said...

Now that everyone seems to have discovered Murakami I don't want to read him anymore :-)

Nilu said...

whats your point in reading books? to prove in a bar that you do read? death to those who read whole books.

Chenthil said...

Lavanya, would like to know what you thought of the book after you finish it.

R S - I am not much into these ism stuff, so can't say whether it is an absurdist or magical realism or post modernism novel. And your blog title was good :-)

Tilo - do read him. As Nilu says the point of reading books is to prove in a bar that we read.

Nilu - I have a couple of more posts on Italo Calvino and Milan Kundera :-)

Anonymous said...

Kafka on the Shore is one of the best books i've ever read. But don't expect to understand it!