Internationally bestselling author Haruki Murakami is well known for his use of the fantastic in his novels, to the point where they could quite easily be classed as fantasy or science fiction books; at the very least the literary world likes to brand them as works of “magical realism.” Kafka on the Shore is an excellent example of this and a good book to start on for those not too familiar with his work, as the world is well grounded before the fantastic appears in the story, broken up into shortish chapters so the reader doesn’t become lost. The book also features one of the darkest and most horrific scenes involving cats that I’ve ever read.
There are two storylines in Kafka on the Shore. One is of Kafka Tamura, who is sick of the pathetic excuse for parenting from his celebrity father, and runs away from home, embarking on his own adventure, meeting special and unusual people only Murakami could create. He is in search of the identity of his lost sister, and looking to find out who his real mother is. Kafka ends up working at a small library, where there is a middle-aged lady who could well be his mother, as well as a transsexual librarian who becomes a good and close friend.
And then there is Nakata, an old simple man who seems to be losing his marbles, but actually knows what he’s talking about and has his own journey to go on and complete. He can also talk to cats. After dealing with a problem he heads on his journey that skillfully brings him into the Kafka storyline, but it is not until near the end of the book that the whole story is revealed and realized. While the story continues on a little too long, even though the story feels complete, Kafka on the Shore is a great example of the fantastic writer that is Haruki Murakami.
Originally written on December 30, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.
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