Summary and book reviews of Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on The Shore

by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on The Shore
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2005, 448 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2006, 448 pages

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Book Summary

A tour de force of metaphysical reality, powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy who runs away from home to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy, and an aging simpleton.

With Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami gives us a novel every bit as ambitious and expansive as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has been acclaimed both here and around the world for its uncommon ambition and achievement, and whose still-growing popularity suggests that it will be read and admired for decades to come.

This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle–yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.

Extravagant in its accomplishment, Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world's truly great storytellers at the height of his powers.

Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home. I take a small, old gold lighter--I like the design and feel of it--and a folding knife with a really sharp blade. Made to skin deer, it has a five-inch blade and a nice heft. Probably something he bought on one of his trips abroad. I also take a sturdy, bright pocket flashlight out of a drawer. Plus sky blue Revo sunglasses to disguise my age.

I think about taking my father's favorite Sea-Dweller Oyster Rolex. It's a beautiful watch, but something flashy will only attract attention. My cheap plastic Casio watch with an alarm and stopwatch will do just fine, and might actually be more useful. Reluctantly, I return the Rolex to its drawer.

From the back of another drawer I take out a photo of me and my older sister when we were little, the two of us on a beach somewhere with grins plastered across our faces. My sister's looking off to the side so half her face is in shadow and her ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enliven your group's discussion of Kafka on the Shore, the magical new novel by the internationally acclaimed author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami. Part bildungsroman, part metaphysical thriller, part meditation on the elusive nature of time, Kafka on the Shore displays all the talents that have made Haruki Murakami one of the most beloved novelists in the world today.


About This Book
Kafka on the Shore is structured around the alternating stories of Kafka Tamura, a fifteen-year-old boy who runs ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I thought this was a marvelous novel, although I'm not sure that I entirely understood it. The upside is that I'm not the only one, it seems that even Murakami had trouble understanding it! As he says, "This may sound self-serving, but it's true. I know people are busy and it depends, too, on whether they feel like doing it, but if you have the time, I suggest reading the novel more than once. Things should be clearer the second time around. I've read it, of course, dozens of times as I rewrote it, and each time I did, slowly but surely the whole started to come into sharper focus."   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (233 words).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post's Book World - Steven Moore

Murakami's spin on this theme* and the Oedipus myth is daringly original and compulsively readable, enabled by Philip Gabriel's wonderfully fluent translation. Kafka on the Shore is warmly recommended. (*That each soul is looking for its other half/soul mate)

Library Journal - Shirley N Quan

Parts of Murakami's story are violently gruesome and sexually explicit, and the plot line following Nakata is rather eerie and disturbing. Yet the bulk of this narrative is erudite, lyrical, and compelling; followers of Murakami's work should approve.

Booklist - Allison Block

Replete with riddles, exhaustingly eccentric characters (a pimp dressed as Colonel Sanders, a Hegel-quoting whore), and imagery ranging from the sublime to the grotesque, Murakami's literary high-wire acts have earned him both boos and ahs from connoisseurs of contemporary fiction. What side you come down on depends on your predilection for the perverse.

Kirkus Reviews

Murakami is of course himself an immensely reader-friendly novelist, and never has he offered more enticing fare than this enchantingly inventive tale. A masterpiece, entirely Nobel-worthy.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Occasionally, the writing drifts too far into metaphysical musings—mind-bending talk of parallel worlds, events occurring outside of time—and things swirl a bit at the end as the author tries, perhaps too hard, to make sense of things. But by this point, his readers, like his characters, will go just about anywhere Murakami wants them to, whether they get it or not.

Reader Reviews

Donald Spuehler

Disturbing Grace
Murakami uses the brush of magic to get to the really real of emotions and the psyche. Sad, comic and more and wonderful.

EG

Loved it
I don't know how, but Haruki Murakami reminds me Paul Auster. They have the same warm expressions in their words. I've read Kafka on the Shore with Philiph Gabriel's translation (vintage 2005). I loved it. Kafka Tamura seemed older than fifteen ...   Read More

Katrina Wong

A stunning novel
Kafka on the Shore is Murakami’s best novel yet, outshining The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Hard Boiled Wonderland[...] by combining an intriguing, page-turning storyline with absurdly profound metaphysical and postmodern philosophy. The parallel-...   Read More

Judy

Magical surrealism
I don't know if magical surrealism is a genre but that's what I would call Kafka on the Shore. It is surreal in that things happen in parallel worlds and dream worlds that are just as real or more so than things that happen in the "real" world. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and graduated from the Waseda University, Tokyo, in 1975. He and his wife lived in Europe and the United States from 1986 to 1995 before returning to Tokyo. He did not write his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing (1979, translated 1987) until he was in his thirties. His major breakthrough came in 1987 with the publication of Norwegian Wood - a coming of age story named after the Beatles' song, which is somewhat different to his other books in that it is written in a realistic style, whereas his other books all have strong fantasy elements.

In addition to writing his own books in Japanese, Murakami is a skillful translator of English works into Japanese, including books by Scott Fitzgerald...

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