Book Review // Kafka on the Shore ⭐⭐

Book Name: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami

What is the connection between fifteen-year-old runaway Kafka Tamura and elderly, mentally disabled Nakata who can talk to cats? As it turns out, a lot, but also, not much. Kafka is attempting to flee from his Oedipal curse, while Nakata is hitchhiking to find a magical stone.

Review: 2/5 ⭐
To be honest, there are aspects of this book that I really liked.

There is a small library Kafka stumbles upon, that feels like a character in itself. That library made me feel excessively giddy. Esoterics stay there, mainly for research, but for Kafka, he describes it as a place he feels he has always been looking for.

There is much discussion of classical music, which, as a one raised on it, I was delighted, as though I had arrived somewhere I once belonged. Murakami’s style weaves whimsy and a faint aura of other-worldliness that makes his works so appealing.

And oh, the characters, how I was fascinated by the characters. All of them so interesting, so multi-layered.

Murakami writes so many beautiful lines in this book, I highlighted way too many, as you’ll soon see below. Just beautiful.

However. And of course there is a “however.” There is so much sex. So much. And not just sex, but disturbing, graphic sex. So much of it that I did not want to continue reading. So much that it overshadowed all the nice parts I liked and left me just, kind of baffled. I understand that it plays a large role in the story, but did it really need to be so graphic and extensive??

The thing is, if you ignore all that, the story is fascinating. It’s full of layers that I think would take several re-readings to uncover. There are so many metaphors, my mind went giddy (again). Music is used as a mode of communication, each piece mentioned serves as a metaphor.

Kafka’s journey is fascinating. He runs away at first. When he realises he can’t seem to run from his fate, he decides it’s pointless to resist and gives into it. The story follows him as he finally chooses to make his own destiny and forge his own path. It’s rather an interesting coming-of-age story.

So you see, I am really torn with this book, which I suppose some people would say is the mark of one that endures.


Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. … And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in.

Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That’s it. That’s my heart.

“‘Even chance meetings’ . . . how does the rest of that go?”
“‘Are the result of karma.’”
“Right, right,” she says. “But what does it mean?”
“That things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.”

“In ancient times people weren’t just male or female, but one of three types: male/male, male/female, or female/ female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people. Everyone was happy with this arrangement and never really gave it much thought. But then God took a knife and cut everybody in half, right down the middle. So after that the world was divided just into male and female, the upshot being that people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing other half.”

There’s only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.

“Kafka, in everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”

While they’re still alive, people can become ghosts.

Until Edison invented the electric light, most of the world was totally covered in darkness. The physical darkness outside and the inner darkness of the soul were mixed together, with no boundary separating the two.

“As long as there’s such a thing as time, everybody’s damaged in the end, changed into something else. It always happens, sooner or later.”

“When I was fifteen … all I wanted was to go off to some other world, a place beyond anybody’s reach. A place beyond the flow of time.”
“But there’s no place like that in this world.”
“Exactly. Which is why I’m living here, in this world where things are continually damaged, where the heart is fickle, where time flows past without a break. … But you know … when I was fifteen, I thought there had to be a place like that in the world.”

“To be honest about it, I’m not trying to die. I’m just waiting for death to come. Like sitting on a bench at the station, waiting for the train.”

“Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time.”

“Perhaps most people in the world aren’t trying to be free, Kafka. They just think they are. It’s all an illusion. If they really were set free, most people would be in a real bind. You’d better remember that. People actually prefer not being free.”

Weird . . . People are born in order to live, right? But the longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve lost what’s inside me— and ended up empty. And I bet the longer I live, the emptier, the more worthless, I’ll become. Something’s wrong with this picture.

Believing that art itself, and the proper expression of emotions, was the most sublime thing in the world, he thought political power and wealth served only one purpose: to make art possible.

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

“I want you to remember me. If you remember me, then I don’t care if everybody else forgets.”

“Are memories such an important thing?”
“It depends,” she replies, and lightly closes her eyes. “In some cases they’re the most important thing there is.”

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. … Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads—at least that’s where I imagine it—there’s a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.”

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