By February 7, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

Kafka on the Shore

This week my book group met to discuss Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. For many it was their first exposure to the Japanese author who has become a cult favorite in America. I entered the room curious, perhaps a little worried, about how my group feel about this novel rife with sexuality, surrealism and mysteries galore.

They were more than game, and many of them really enjoyed Murakami’s style and pacing. He draws you in from the first page into the mysteries of his characters, their journeys, and the larger, philosophical questions and dilemmas he throws out from one chapter to the next.

The novel has two parallel narrative strands that eventually begin to cross. 15-year-old runaway Kafka Tamura flees his father’s home in search of the mother and sister who he hasn’t seen since he was a child, running towards and in fear of an Oedipal curse his father laid upon him. Kafka finds himself seeking refuge in a library where he meets Oshima, a cross-gender man, and Miss Saeki, the director of the library who suffered the tragic loss of her true love at 20 and who may just be Kafka’s lost mother. Alternating between the chapters about Kafka and his journey, is the story of Nakata, a simpleton who lost his memory in an accident as a child. Nakata can talk to cats, and from this peculiar talent that his life takes some unexpected turns. But nothing is as it seems is a Murakami novel, and as in most of his other work, reality and dreams start to blur.

Dreams and reality do blur in Kafka on the Shore and Oshima introduces that famous Yeats line, “In dreams begin responsibilities,” that reverberates throughout the novel.

More reactions from the group: A great read that really opens your eyes to different levels of things that people don’t always see; the part about the incident where Nakata loses his memory felt like an X-files episode; the humor in Murakami’s writing was fun, refreshing, kept you going; the blurring of dream and reality felt real–sometimes it can be difficult to discern what is real memory and what is dream memory; Murakami’s writing opens you to new possibilities of seeing things; book was essentially a bildungsroman–was it anything more?

Another wonderful discussion!

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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