Kafka on The Shore, written by Haruki Murakami and translated to English by Philip Gabriel. It tells the stories of Kafka, a young boy of 15 who runs away from home and an old man Nakata, who has an uncanny ability to talk to cats.
Kafka runs away from his father’s home and finds shelter in a private library in Takamatsu, run by Miss Saeki and the intelligent and more welcoming Oshima. There he spends his days reading the unabridged Richard Francis Burton translation of One Thousand and One Nights and the collected works of Natsume Sōseki until the police begin inquiring after him in connection with the murder of his father that he is not sure if he has committed or not. Oshima brings him to the forests of Kōchi Prefecture, where Kafka goes through an other-worldly experience and is ultimately healed.
Nakata’s story starts with military reports of a strange incident where multiple children, including Nakata, collapse in the woods. Nakata is the only one who came out of the incident without any memory and unable to read and write. Later on it is shown that due to his uncanny ability of being able to talk to cats, Nakata has found part-time work in his old age as a finder of lost cats. As his story progresses, Nakata kills a man named Johnnie Walker, a cat murderer. After that, he goes on the road for the first time in his life, unable even to read a map and without knowing where he will eventually end up. He befriends a truck driver named Hoshino, who takes him on as a passenger in his truck and soon becomes very attached to the old man and both head for Takamatsu, an unknown force driving him there.
Kafka on the Shore mixes magical realism, mystery and sexuality and with a young boy and an old man at the centre of the story, it piques the interest from the very beginning. As the stories of Kafka and Nakata unfold, it is clear that at some point their lives will intertwine. Kafka’s father is murdered and though Kafka is miles away, he finds himself soaked in blood when he wakes up and Nakata too has killed a man called Johnnie Walker. The mystery of Kafka’s father’s murder follows them both throughout.
I started the book with some apprehension as it is somewhat large but as the pages turned the story kept me hooked. There is just the correct blend of mystery and magic in the book. What happens when the line between conscious and subconscious dissolves? Kafka on the Shore answers this question through the characters. This was my second Murakami book and I loved this one too. A must read for everyone.
My rating: 4.8/5