Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura has a peculiar home life. His mother and sister disappeared long ago, and he feels no affection for his sinister father. Kafka has had enough. He packs up and runs away to a provincial town, far from his home city of Tokyo. Our protagonist’s ensuing escapades see him learn about himself and make new friends.
A parallel storyline involves Nakata, a likeable old man who suffers from a wartime affliction and has the ability to talk to cats. Nakata is poised to set off on a journey of his own, destination unknown.
Time and reality are flexible and uncertain states in this mystical novel that infuses realism with ethereal elements, such as dream-like-sequences. This long text (500+ pages) contains two tangential storylines and endless superfluous details. Yet due to its cathartic prose style, Kafka on the Shore rarely feels turgid.
One suspects that there is more divergence in the characters’ speech patterns in the original Japanese language version. Whilst this reader is far too cynical for speaking cats and the like, he was impressed by Murakami’s fertile imagination.