Saturday, 26 September 2009

Kafka on the Shore: Haruki Murakami

Having read several so-called modern classics recently and been rather disappointed (Scarlett Thomas, step forward), I am delighted to have finally got round to reading my first Murakami novel and being swept up in the meandering, bizarre narrative.

‘Kafka On The Shore’ starts out as the story of ‘Kafka’ Tamura, a fifteen year old who has run away from his home in Tokyo to escape the clutches of a father he perceives of as overbearing and vindictive. The tale of Mr Nakata, an apparent simpleton who can talk to cats, becomes woven around and gradually into Kafka’s story as the novel twists and turns more times than a grass snake with muscle spasms.

What unfolds is a tightly managed epic, a sort of 21st century quest narrative that ponders the nature of time, of existence, and the power of music upon the human soul along the way. Masterfully translated by Philip Gabriel, Murakami’s novel delivers whimsical, baffling yet credible characters who seem to exist in a world which is slightly out of synch with the rest of Japan. Yet this is their charm: they are unlike anyone you may have read before (unless you’re familiar with Murakami’s other work, I assume).

Great writers understand the value of focusing on the fine details and also on allowing the broad brush strokes to create atmosphere and authenticity. ‘Kafka On The Shore’ is like an object lesson in the art of the novelist: it keeps you guessing all the way to the end; it is full of beautiful descriptive passages; the characters are unfathomable but entirely lovable. Not since the first time I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ have I felt so compelled to read a novel again the moment I have reached the final page.


  1. I think I would enjoy this book, can't wait to hear if you enojoyed it!

  2. Am certainly enjoying it so far and hope the ending lives up to the rest of it.