Start your review of Sahilde Kafka Write a review Shelves: the-japanese Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Because this storm isnt something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you.
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Beethoven, Haydn vs. Not any real one, anyway. But this is a Murakami novel and, as in all Murakami novels, as one of the characters observes: "The world is a metaphor, Kafka Tamura". The novel is presented in alternating chapters, plot-lines that inevitably converge and cross but without completely merging. The odd-numbered chapters are narrated by disaffected youth Kafka Tamura, who decides that his fifteenth birthday "is the ideal time to run away from home".
The other story-line begins with earlier events, a mysterious occurrence from World War II. A class expedition into the woods ended with all the schoolchildren but not the teacher falling into coma-like states. Except for one, they snap out of it quickly, and seem to have suffered no ill effects though they also have no memory of what happened to them. The exception is Nakata, who only comes out of this state weeks later and has been changed: he is completely empty.
Whatever happened to him appears also to have affected his mind: he used to be a bright boy, but now seems a bit slow, and he never learns to read, for example. In the present day Nakata is retired, living pretty much without friends and ignored by his family but getting along well and happily enough. Destiny has something in mind for both Kafka and Nakata. Kafka heads south, for Shikoku. Feeling -- of this sort and Murakami-characters have them all the time -- always trumps reason.
Needless, to say, Shikoku is the place he has to be. For a fifteen year-old runaway, things also work out remarkably well for him. Eventually, Kafka is drawn to a library, the Komura Memorial Library, which turns out to be just the place for him. He finds a helpful friend in one of the workers, Oshima, and is also drawn to the head of the library, old Miss Saeki -- both if not quite outcasts at least very much on the periphery of society.
There are a few problems -- Kafka wakes up in the middle of nowhere one night, his T-shirt all bloody, with no memory of what happened the past few hours -- but no matter, things just seem to work out. Among his talents is his ability to talk to cats, which he has parlayed into a small business, helping locals find their lost cats.
This, however, now leads him to an unsavoury character who also has a project involving cats -- one which Nakata puts an end to. And once that is done he too feels compelled to head south. Like Kafka, Nakata pretty much always finds what he needs. Much of it feels otherworldy anyway, what with the almost dreamlike state of these many characters, largely cut off from what might be considered normal life. In the novel the characters are allowed to become, in some way, whole.
Only Kafka appears to have a choice between worlds and futures, and he explores the alternative more deeply than most Murakami characters have. Chapter by chapter Kafka on the Shore is an entertaining read: Murakami tells his stories well, and what happens is, at the very least, unusual.
It also bubbles over -- as Kafka occasionally threatens to -- into some strong violence, gruesome but effective stuff. The novel is meant to be a modern Greek tragedy -- not just because of the curse on Kafka, but in its whole world-view. The world is an uglier place than he is willing to describe. The failing of the novel can also be summed up in the fact that no one in it really gets lost.
There is simply no doubt that everything will work out for these characters, as Murakami makes it much too easy for them. The book would have been much stronger if the reader might have been at least led to believe that one of these characters might not wind up as they should.
Kafka is also not an entirely satisfying protagonist; surprisingly the empty Nakata is in many ways the more interesting character. A lot happens in Kafka on the Shore but it is a disturbingly passive book. The world it describes -- be it metaphor or real -- is one in which fate rules all and free will seems non-existent. The characters are essentially robotic, going through the motions without appearing to be able to influence them. As far as the episodes and the quirky details go, Murakami offers as much as usual, and does it as well.
However, unlike his best novels, it is too far and, more significantly: too unconvincingly far from the world we know to be a true success.
Sahilde Kafka / Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami – Sahilde Kafka (Kafka On The Shore)
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