I wanted to read Murakami’s books for a long time, even going as far as already carrying a copy around in the book shop, and then deciding against buying thinking about lack of time and money, and perhaps even motivation. As I was really thrilled to be back to reading after Harper’s mocking bird, I decided to give it a try straight away, and I must say that I am hooked. I actually read 3 books from Murakami in a row, and this is the third, and the most recent one. Having finished it just minutes ago, I’d like to share my first impressions.
Compared to the first two (Norwegian Wood, and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki), Kafka on the Shore is definitely very different and wasn’t at all what I expected. Started off reading about a 15-year-old runaway, I thought that maybe I would find it hard to take in – to understand the protagonist because the life and thoughts of a teenager are beyond me. I also thought that probably, like in most of the books I seem to read about teenagers, this boy would also be pictured as a lot smarter and more mature than normal teenagers, which I normally find very far from life and quite annoying. There is something simple and honest about picturing them as they are, but for some reason it is also a little embarrassing to read – reminding yourself of the time you were that young and doing and thinking of all sort of stupid things that you are not proud of.
I think the book definitely did the second – showing Kafka more mature than he probably should have been, but as it seemed to me, he was also a little crazy, so I really enjoyed the book. The common theme in the three books seems to be the obsession about age. Staying fixed at certain age at least, for sure. Everybody wants to stay young, but I’m not sure that as compulsively as comes across in Murakami’s books. During the time I was reading the book, and was thinking over the fact how the plot was going, I was thinking of Japanese culture and tried to gather all that I know of it, and it made me all the more curious about that obsessive-compulsive reminder of age.
What I love about books is a bit of science fiction – something mysterious, out of place. In a way it really gets me curious and makes me want to read more to find out all the extraordinary and have some sort of a logical explanation to it all. The other part of me is thinking how absurd it all is, and that it’s not even worth reading it. I guess the book was really quite long, infused with theoretical, abstract, and METAPHORICAL talk and dwelling over all things in life. A lot about books, music, sex and loneliness. A bunch of philosophical talk, that started to bore me a little. However, this complex discussion was paralleled and contrasted with the simple life of an old man, who could talk to cats and wasn’t able to read. It created a nice harmony, and as the two seemingly different plots started to mix, the tension grew.
At some point, everything was so unreal that I felt like watching Twin Peaks. Entrance stone, “concept beings”, raining fish and leeches, talking to cats.. Then this Oedipus complex curse – killing one’s father and sleeping with the mother was just somehow disturbing. And of course, in the end, at least that was how I felt, there was a lot left up hanging in the air, free for interpretation.
So, what do we know? It seems that there are a couple of people who have been on the other side (is it heaven?). They have been there before and at least two of them have lost half of their shadows on their way back. Have they made a deal with the devil? Then who is this guy making flutes out of cats’ souls? Oh, I must say I hated reading the part when cats were killed. The way it was described, and the monologue of the evil guy were simply disturbing. So then, sorry but where were the cats’ heads when the police found the guy dead? He was a sculptor? Had the devil just crawled inside of him for the time Nakata met him?
Then how come Nakata gets those different gifts, but Miss Saeki only gets to be the 15-year old self every now and then? The story is so complex, that it’s difficult to keep track of everything.
OK, the evil thing must have been a devil or a shadow, looking for ways to get to the weird communal place, and therefore setting things to work by getting Nakata to kill him (protector of the cats, summoner of the flying sea creatures, however, naive like a child, always talking of himself in third person). What is Kafka’s role in all this? He is in the centre of all this, however, it seems that only to link together the supernatural. And what about Oshima’s brother, who apparently had also been on the other side, just casually showing up in the end? Needless to say, including a boy born in a girl’s body in the plot is just.. interesting? And also, a “sister” who is really out of the plot most of the time?
I’m really starting to think that Nakata was some sort of a god. On his mission, everybody tried to help him fulfill his prophecy (if you can call unconscious doing of things that). Then he gets a follower – a truck driver who just leaves everything and helps him out, maturing and getting more cultural during the journey, and finishing the mission (Jesus!). Then, there are theories, that Nakata is just the other half of Kafka, but how? Nakata lost his MEMORY which is an important concept, because Miss Saeki gives it up voluntarily after/before death. She could be Kafka’s mother? Apparently, she opened the entrance stone before, and regrets it now because she has been dead ever since. Nakata does not even meet Kafka – not on this, nor on the other side. He strictly has business with the lady. A bunch of nonsense.
Then we see the Crow boy actually being a crow, and trying to kill the evil spirit in a sort of limbo space. The Crow really made me think Kafka was crazy. But it seemed to be the smarter, more reasonable side of him? Was Crow the part Nakata was missing?
Then Kafka waking up in bushes, having blood from Tokyo all over him (getting angry every now and then without being able to control it) – is it the part of devil inside of him who had to get out by Kafka forgiving to his mum? Was the devil Kafka’s father?
I think it’s time for me to read some theories and explanations of the book, because I am just plain confused.
Murakami says that the secret to understanding the novel lies in reading it several times: “Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the kind of novel I set out to write.”
There we go.