Kafka On The Shore Book Review: Entering A Trance

Book number 36: Kafka on the Shore by H. Murakami, picked up at the MIBF 2012.

What it is: Kafka on the Shore is a two-stranded novel between teenager boy Kafka Tamura who runs away from his father who cursed him with an Oedipal prophecy, which eventually comes true, and Satoru Nakata, a senior citizen with a mind that is the proverbial blank slate, who ended up killing Kafka’s father in his place, and who also has the ability to open and close a subconscious tunnel of some sort.

As the story of these two characters collide, the divide between dream and reality blurs; Kafka on the Shore is one big schooling on metaphysics, consciousness expansion, and the search for meaning. Filled with metaphors, riddles, potent sex, and insights on the passing of time, love and loss, openness and acceptance, the book definitely compels readers to think beyond what is real and possible and make a stretch for what is beyond the norm. There are several themes within Kafka on the Shore but the one that struck me most was the one about fate choosing man and not man choosing his fate.

What I liked about it: Hypnotizing. This is the first Murakami book I’ve read and this is the first time I’ve seen narration like this. I read Kafka on the Shore for five days; normally it takes me between one and three days to finish a book depending on how good it is, but this one I had to read in bursts because I wanted to revel in the intoxicating feeling it gave me. The ability of Murakami to tell a story is mind blowing. When I read it’s like I’m listening to music – this is a first for me and I’m so impressed with the technical makeup of Kafka on the Shore on all lengths.

It is also very cultured. Kafka on the Shore is filled with good art, music, and literature that definitely appealed to me. The characters are also all interesting! Normally in a book there would be one or two characters at most who are interesting but in this one everybody simply is – even the talking cats! I also did not mind that everyone made sense as hell – even the cats (something I complained about in The Fault in our Stars).

What I did not like about: I’d just say it quick – I’m not mad about the plot, with all the magical realism bits and otherworldly stunts (like I mentioned in Like Water for Chocolate) but it did not matter a lot really because the ability of Murakami to narrate the story blew me away. It did not matter that sardines and mackerel fell from the sky because Nakata made it to or that I read through Kafka and his 50 year old employer having repeated sex. It did not matter that living spirits exists and that there is an entrance stone to an alternate universe. It did not matter that there are a lot of loose ends in the book, tons of riddles, and important questions left unanswered. Everything flowed like music so I just went along, enjoyed the mysteries, and had a nice time reading Kafka on the Shore.

Recommended for: Hardcore readers who don’t mind exerting more effort than the usual in understanding a book. Let’s just say Kafka on the Shore does not exactly make light reading. 😉

Photos from here and here.

21 thoughts on “Kafka On The Shore Book Review: Entering A Trance

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  3. Haha… We talk about reading this book together, work has been crazy this past days so I never even attempted opening it. But after reading this, damn, I am excited. I cant wait to share my Murakami experience. 😀

    • i was wondering when you would get to it. but i enjoyed reading kafka on the shore as it is a wonderful literary journey. i loved the technicalities with which the book was made. from the writing perspective i think it was awesome. can’t wait for you to dig in on this one.

  4. Murakami writes pretty prose and tons of annoying riddles (annoying because I don’t get them) and personally, I’d rather read Kafka On The Shore and Norwegian Wood over and over again than finish 1Q84 which is pretty darn hard to understand. I just don’t get it.

    • for some time i was thinking about 1Q84, if i wanted to buy it and read it, since it’s quite pricey. maybe i should pass on it if it will be way over my head!

          • I’m currently reading J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy.” Pretty decent though I have to admit, I am yearning for some magic. I can email you my copy if you want.

            “The Family Fang” is a very good read, too. I haven’t finished it yet because J.K. Rowling.

            “The Art of Fielding” is in my to-read list. I heard it’s awesome. Lastly, Junot Diaz’ “This Is How You Lose Her.”

            • so the casual vacancy is a normal kind of setting then? i would love to get a copy if you don’t mind. my email is pmblog@rocketmail.com and thank you loads! i’d check out the family fang and this is how you lose her. the titles are interesting already, thanks! 🙂

              • Yes, it’s set in small English town with characters ranging from dweeb to geriatric. Rowling dropped a lot of f-bombs and c-words which was, to me, equal parts awesome and disappointing because this is a reminder that I am growing up and I refuse to.

                Email sent! 🙂

                • i understand what you mean and can’t wait to check it out myself, thanks a bunch. 🙂 HP is the only magical thing i enjoyed reading. these days it’s hard for me to digest books with the same formula.

  5. i think i have the same slow and intoxicating reading experience you have while reading Love in the Time of Cholera., ganda din nun, malamanng kasing ganda ng Kafka. hehe
    I have only read a Murakami novel which is “south of the border west of the sun” very sensual nun and a bit disappointing, iba kasi inexpect ko hehe. pero it was good writing. btw you might want to check out his “Norwegian Wood” I only saw the movie which was disturbingly awesome. hehe. ^_^

    I think I’ll read Kafka, thanks to your review!

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