I start this post by making a confession: reading two books in a row (not part of a series) written by the same author was a first for me. After reading a book, I usually want to try something else, or I already decided what book to read next and I stick to the plan.

But after reading “1Q84“, none of these two options happened. So I picked another Murakami book, this time from my brother’s bookshelf (thank you, Andrei!), and I immersed myself again in the surreal world imagined by the Japanese writer in “Kafka on the Shore”.

In a nutshell

We are told two stories which seem to be completely parallel … but actually, they’re not. On one hand, we have Kafka – a 15-year-old boy, passionate about reading, who runs away from home and experiences his first love. On the other hand,Β  we have Nakata – an ageing man who lost his mental capacities after a war experience in childhood. They are both in a world where weird things happen, for example, fish fall from the sky and cats talk with humans. These kind of happening are the norm in Murakami’s universe.

kafka_on_the_shore_by_oneirio readers high tea
Nakata and Kafka, illustrated by Oneirio

Hidden meanings

What fascinated me the most while reading this book was not the plot itself, neither the characters, but the plethora of riddles, metaphors, and hidden meanings used by Murakami. For example, we are presented a limbo village (where souls of dead people reside as they could not go to heaven/hell), and we read about people who have a shadow “only half as dark as that of ordinary people”. We also have the Oedipus myth, references to the Japanese Shinto religion, portals, and many more … It is surely a puzzling story.

Some disturbing parts

However, there were also few sections that I did not enjoy at all – some descriptions were so disturbing that I was seriously considering to skip those passages. And there were also some erotic happenings that I think could’ve been avoided without diminishing the overall value of the story. Just so you know, be prepared for some unpleasant images.

Murakamian style?

Given that I read “Kafka on the Shore” right after reading “1Q84”, I could not help myself and compare the two books. I easily identified Murakami’s style in both books, with out of the blue surreal happenings, music references, detailed meals descriptions, and many cats appearing in the story. In addition, both books have alternating chapters that present the main characters’ point of view.

Overall, I enjoyed reading “1Q84” more than “Kafka on the Shore” – it had a more complex and well-rounded plot (also more than 2x pages) and I personally felt it was easier to relate with the characters.

murakami 1q84 kafka on the shore book review

Wrap-up

To conclude, I recommend reading “Kafka on the Shore” if you’re looking for an enigmatic dreamlike book and if you want to discover Murakami’s universe. You’ll be immersed in a 400-page story about self-discovery, challenges, and fate, all surrounded by a magical realism aura.

Have you read any novels written by Murakami? What’s your favourite one and why?

‘Till next time … happy reading!

Georgiana


PS: In case you have already read the book, check out this beautiful website created by Lisa, a Communication Design graduate who illustrated “Kafka on the shore” story as her thesis project. Her work is amazing!!

PPS: if you’re a Murakami fan, check out the Murakami bingo here πŸ™‚


Images: cover picture adapted from Rittlerion.com | Deviantart/Oneirio | Penguin Books Australia | Amazon

3 thoughts on “Oedipus myth wrapped in surrealism – Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (book review)

    1. I totally agree! Even though this complexity and openness can feel frustrating at times, I personally think that good writers are able to kindle all sorts of emotions in their readers’ souls … and from this point of view, Murakami is for sure a great author! πŸ˜€

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