Friday, May 15, 2009

magical kafka...

What is the connection between an oldish and rather crazy man who has the ability to talk to cats and an insecure, deeply passionate and impulsive young lad? A lot, apparently, according to the latest Murakami creation I devoured....

The Japanese author who has the witchraft-like ability to weave mysticism into the most mundane of situations has once again impressed me with his "Kafka on the Shore." This ability he possesses in his writing is executed so smoothly that the transition from realistic to mystic is most natural and as a result easy to read and digest. He never delves too deeply into the realities of life to bore you and definitely has yours truly hooked on his books!

The story revolves around the parallel but in most ways dissimilar lives of a young and restless Japanese lad called Kafka (coincidentally!) who tries to find his place on earth, feeling unloved and unwanted by family, and an old man, Nakata, whose simplistic external lifestyle is a fabulous cover for the fantastical world he EXISTS in. The two never meet in the story but their experiences have profound consequences on their daily existences.

Kafka develops an identity and familial crisis at the tender age of fifteen and decides to find himself by running away from home and discovering the world for himself. He is in dire need of finding the rationale behind the realities of his own life -his dad abandoning him to devote himself to his craft and designating his own life with a rather uncanny prophecy....his mother and sister leaving him when he was very young.....his own burgeoning sexuality.

He meets several characters along the way, the first of which is Sakura, who he thinks is his sister but proceeds to lust after her. Oshima, a female to male transsexual who becomes his dearest friend during his sojourn. Oshima acts like an older brother/mentor to Kafka, and helps him by giving him work at the library in Takamatsu where Kafka meets the unrealistically beautiful but trapped middle-aged librarian Miss Saeki who also works there. The two find that there is a rather bizaare connection between them and it is because Saeki is Kafka's mother. But this does not happen until after they have both made love and dreamt about each other. This was the prophecy laid out to him by his father....he would make love to his sister and mother and kill his own father. The demise of his own father at Kafka's hands would best be explained by the events in the life of our second most important character...

....Nakata, is an old man who acquired a mental ailment when he was young. This results to a lack of coordination and many basic cognitive skills. But he acquires this magnificent ability to communicate with cats and predict certain unworldly events on a miniscule scale. Surviving on government subsidy he augments his income by informally working as a seeker of lost cats. Because of his magical way with the cats, he has a hundred percent success rate and is rather famous around his neighborhood for this. But the moment he kills the man responsible for the murder of many felines, Mr. Johnnie Walker, his life changes. This is the moment in the story where everything becomes symbolic and hazy (for me at least). Mr. Walker is actually the symbolic representation of Kafka's father, and is murdered by Nakata. So we can then assume that at one point or maybe the whole time, Nakata is or becomes Kafka's alter ego. Because he executed the prophecy laid out for Kafka.

The consequence of Nakata's action brings him to flee where he lives to avoid police detection. He meets Hoshino, a truck-driver who lives a sedate and cookie-cutter life. Their friendship blossoms because in Nakata, Hoshino realizes that life can be spontaneous, natural and free-flowing. There is no need to worry about the future by living in the present and letting life take its course.

The two set out on a journey charted unknowingly by Nakata himself. There is a mission that must be accomplished. I personally think that his mission is to open Kafka's eyes to the harsh realities in life. They must be dealt with and not abandoned. This is the moment where the mystical and unconscious begin to merge with the real and tangible again....the magic of Murakami weaving through the plot and it is gorgeous beyond belief hehehe...

The two characters never meet though, Kafka and Nakata. The demise of Nakata in the end signals that Kafka is nearing the end of his own quest for his place here on Earth. The story leads me to believe that Nakata is a figment of Kafka's unconscious self but he is tangible in many ways so I am quite stuck on what to believe...Anyway there are certain portions in the book which makes me think that sometimes the acceptance of what takes place in life is easier than questioning and squeezing your head for their meaning and depth. So the caveat is I must follow this philosophy when I am reading a Murakami book! Hahahaha!

This book dragged a little in certain parts I have to admit but I think most of this is purely because I have been lazy to read and tackle it. But all in all it is another Murakami masterpiece and I am looking forward to the next one in my shelf hehehehe.


Dick Rick said...

A rather good review of this fascinating book, Liisa. Hmmm...perhaps it's time to start something yourself?

liisawinklergirl said...


given my busy schedule I think writing a book will have to take a backseat more now than ever before..

I suppose writing a chronicle of my travels but with a more focused perspective would be one of the best things to do right now aint it?

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading a chronicle of your travels. Good Luck.

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