Murakami’s literary style incorporates aspects of surrealism and parallel universes to conjure up a world that is both far off from our imagination and hauntingly close at hand. What distinguishes Kafka on the Shore from other books? Let us see.
“Kafka on the Shore,” first published in Japanese in 2002 and then translated into English three years later, is an epic literary labyrinth full of time travel, hidden histories, and mysterious underworlds. Readers will enjoy figuring out how the bizarre visuals, funny characters, and strange occurrences all fit together.
Kafka on the Shore narrates the story of three souls, Kafka Tamura, a 15-year-old boy who runs away from home to escape an Oedipal curse. Nakata, an elderly Japanese man who, due to a childhood accident, has an uncanny ability to communicate with cats and spends his days locating and returning lost cats to their owners and Saeki- a woman who lost the love of her life. Despite the fact that the three protagonists appear to be on divergent paths, their paths inexorably collide by fate, destiny, prophecies- whatever you call it, which nears the end of the novel, concluding in an unexpected and hyper-surrealist denouement.
The characters and their adventures are enhanced throughout by colorful companions and captivating occurrences, which are as strange to them as they are to us. Cats and people converse, a phantom pimp hires a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest shelters soldiers who appear to have not aged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky.
In Kafka on the Shore, Murakami portrays the “shore” as the boundary between the conscious and unconscious minds. “It’s a tale of two worlds, consciousness, and unconsciousness,” says the author. The majority of us reside in one of the other two worlds, with one foot in each, and we all live on the edge.
Throughout the book you keep wondering what is going on and even if you keep tracking every plot, every twist till the end you are left with nothing but sheer magical realism. You keep craving for answers and all you get at the end is dozens of cliffhangers. Despite all this, one must read this book only to wander around Murakami’s world, to experience a sense of contentment and calmness. Because it is rightly said, “You don’t just read Murakami, you live him”.