For several years, I've been interested in reading the work of Haruki Murakami, so I was very pleased to find the novel, Kafka on the Shore, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel, on a small table in my daughter's room. Over the years, I've read a lot about Murakami's work, and was interested in several novels by this prolific, bestselling author, as well as his memoir, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, which caught my interest even before I'd begun to run on a regular basis.
"On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library."
There are so many things I could say about Kafka on the Shore. It's a story unlike any other I've read. It's a beautifully written book that features a passion for books and libraries, music, nature, food (mostly delicious Japanese food), cats, and perhaps most importantly, friendship. The protagonist's very name, Kafka, reflects themes of writer Franz Kafka's work, of alienation and loneliness. The wonderful friendships that develop in this book, especially between Kafka and Oshima, and Nakata and Hoshino, are antidotes to this alienation; the characters help and care for each other, and in doing so, provide companionship and solace. Throughout the book, Kafka seeks close, familial connection to others; he wonders if Miss Saeki is his mother, if Sakura is his sister. He craves connection.
Kafka on the Shore is a magical story which also has some magic, or more precisely, magical realism, in it, in just the right amount. At times, readers are left to wonder what's real and what's imaginary. I read the book at a leisurely pace, often at night before I went to sleep, a chapter or two at a time. I looked forward to my time with this novel because the book is original and fascinating. The main characters in this novel are unique and I enjoyed spending time with them. I've been to Japan twice (my daughter lives in Japan so we have a good "excuse" to travel there), which enhanced my enjoyment of the book. I'd like to reread Kafka on the Shore soon, while it's still fresh in my mind, because I enjoyed it a great deal and would like to understand it at a deeper level. There are several puzzles and mysteries in the book, and although I'm not sure I will ever solve all of them, a rereading would at least bring me closer. It would also be a pleasure.
Special thanks to Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza for hosting the Japanese Literature Challenge 12. She has hosted this challenge for many years, and in doing so has introduced me to the rich world of Japanese literature, for which I'm grateful.
Thanks for reading! Your comments are welcomed, as always.