March 17, 2011

Kafka On The Shore: Book Review

Finally laid my hands on a novel after ages, and finished it within a week. 'Kafka On The Shore' is a 2002 novel by the famous Japanese author Haruki Murakami. This was my Murakami novel, having heard a lot about the author from a few friends. 

The plot is very confusing and mysterious, with two seemingly unrelated parallel stories running - very much Tarantino style (I guess one of these guys may be inspired by the other). All the odd-numbered chapters tells the story about a boy named Kafka (which is not the real name of the boy) who runs away from his home to escape his 'curse'. He undertakes a journey from Tokyo to Takamatsu in search of his mother and sister, who left home when he was 4. After stopping at a few unlikely places, he finally finds a job and home at an obscure library. He spends his time in the library reading all sorts of books, and develops some fascination for the head librarian, Miss Saeki. 

There is another parallel story running on the even-numbered chapters about an unusual fellow named Nakata. He is a weird way of talking to people, and has an ability of being able to talk to cats. He met an accident when he was a kid, and could never become normal again. He lives on the state subsidy, and in his free time tracks lost cats to generate some extra income. It was during one of his searches that he gets into trouble, and expected events unfold. 

I would stop here, as anything more might be a spoiler (there are already a few). The novel deals with metaphysical world, and is full of surreal events. The book is open to interpretation, and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. When Murakami asked public to ask him about the questions, he got 8000 questions from people. He later said that one needs to read the book more than once to grasp it fully - and might need to make some assumption (and hence a linked set of assumptions as there are many loose ends). And different people might reach at different conclusions using their assumptions. The book reminded me of the Matrix Trilogy, and its ending - which was to a large extent an open ending. Different people could end up with different conclusions about the whole trilogy, and the director made no effort to clarify the same. 

Overall, its one of the best books I have read - not so much in their final treatment of conclusion, but the overall plot and how it develops. The writing style is amazing, and there are times when you can imagine being at the scene. 


nightflier said...

this sounds great! I have been thinking of starting my first murakami for quite some time but the tales about his novels have kept me at bay.
I needed some kind of inspiration and guess this is it :D

Calvin said...

@nightflier: This one is not amongst his most famous book, there is another one 'The wind-up bird chronicle', and perhaps its supposed to be the best one. Or the Norwegian Wood...I will be starting with the Norwegian Wood soon...

Chandana said...

This is something i've never heard of, but definitely willing to give it a try!

I absolutely love love love books and love trying out different geners and styles of writing... you made this sound pretty interesting :)

Any idea where i can get it from? Usual places like Landmark?

Calvin said...

@Chandana: Yup, worth to read at least one by the author. Its pretty easily available, I got mine from Crossword stores. Else, you can always order online through flipcart or indiaplaza.