Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

It took me a damn long time to read this book. I started it some time in November last year, and I finished it 10 other books later. And I’m not sure if I even liked the book. It wasn’t painful to go through, but it was all kinda meaningless. I didn’t quite connect with the characters or the stories.

Kafka on the Shore is my fourth Murakami’s book (I’ve read Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart, and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle). I was a fan of him (I probably still am), but I’m not a fan of this work. It’s quite surprising how this book is probably one of his most famous. Not to mention all the praises from many well-known reviewers and the awards.

The story switches between Kafka, the 15 year-old runaway and Nakata, the old somehow-mentally-slow man. One chapter for the youngster, one for the old man, and on it goes alternatively. I found this method quite distracting. I was impatient to turn my attention from one POV to another over and over, especially when things were in the heights for one and not so much for the other.

As with other Murakami’s books, there are some elements that almost seem to be his trademarks. Cats, obviously. Always some cats. With some classic music and talk about literature. And some happy-go-lucky girl with not so terrific background who seems to always fade away near middle to end of the book, never to be told again. Of course, the dreamy state and surrealism is always there.

Natsume Soseki’s works are frequently mentioned. I took note of the books, but I lost my note. At one time I had an idea to take note of the books mentioned in the book I currently read. I thought if any book is mentioned three times in three different books, it’s about time for me to just grab the book and read it. But then I found Moby Dick mentioned in 2 different books I read consecutively. I got worried. I really don’t want to be forced reading Moby Dick. (a glimpse of the reason) So I ditched the idea pretty soon.

Rating: 3
I’m torn between 3 and 3.5 rating, but I think I’d just give it a 3. I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the book. I didn’t find the whole Oedipus complex theme very attractive either. I’m hoping for a better Murakami next.

Original Title: 海辺のカフカ (Umibe no Kafuka)
Pages: 489
Publication year: 2002 (Japanese), 2005 (English)
Awards: 2006 World Fantasy Best Novel

First line
“So you’re all set for money, then?” the boy named Crow asks in his typical sluggish voice.

Last line
You are part of a brand-new world.


“If the words can’t create a prophetic tunnel connecting them to the reader, then the whole thing no longer functions as a poem.” ~ Oshima p254

Also reviewed by

Trish | Tanabata | Gautami | C.B. James | Nymeth | Bellezza | Charley | Arukiyomi

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14 thoughts on “Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami”

  1. I’ve heard this author mentioned before, although I’m not familiar with his writing. The cover looks intriguing (ah, (but I shouldn’t judge a book on this basis). Thanks for your review, Mee.

  2. Thanks for the review I won’t go get the book to read =P
    I know I’ll get frustrated (not just distracted) reading a chapter on the youngster, another the old man and so forth… alternatively, and get my mind confused. It’s exactly like Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper” which irritates me no end. Gave up. Wonder whether this is a new way of writing and publishing.

    Prob I’ll give it a try if chance comes, but definitely not myself buying.

    On another note, Congrats on your matrimony. You look different from that hawker-centre-head-bowed down-so-engrossed-in-food picture :-D

  3. I really didn’t like this either… nor After the Quake… and I’m currently listening to the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle with the missus in the car and we both think it’s nuts and are looking forward to the end… guess he’s not for me then!

    Anyway, FWIW, my review of this book is HERE.

  4. I liked The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, or at least the first half. Your reviews of Murakami’s are funny. I can sort of understand your frustration. I think the best way to read Murakami’s is just to go with the flow and stop trying to understand the symbolism and guess where it’s going. Almost like fairy tales.

    But for Kafka, a lot of the elements are much too random. It felt like a writing experiment. As if he just wants to see what happens if he throws a bunch of weird random elements, like Johnnie Walker, KFC guy, fish dropping from the sky, a he-female, ghost. Geez I’m just reminded of how I disliked this book! He should have aliens at the end. (Because all good adventures need aliens at the end– yes I’m looking at you Indy)

  5. It’s a pity Kafka didn’t work for you. It’s been a LONG time since I read it (couldn’t wait when it got out ;) but I recallI liked it — even though it wasn’t as good as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

    I do remember especially liking the ghost-part, because it reminded me of the classic The Tale of Genji which I had read (partly) recently. Recognition, isn’t that part of the fun in reading? ;)

    I just discovered your blog and immediately added your rss-feed to my reader! Seems I’ll be visiting more in the near future ;)

      1. parrish, Kafka on the Shore seems to be the favourite of many people, but it’s not mine unfortunately. It’s my least favorite so far in fact. My favorites are The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood (the one that started me on my Murakami journey).

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