To me, Kafka on the shore is one of those really engaging novels – wouldn’t call it unputdownable, but it can really get into you, like few books do.
I fell in love with Haruki Murakami (nearly 35 years after he wrote his first book – so that’s really a late start).
But first here’s a fun fact – did you know the first modern novel in the world was not written in English or even in the west, but was written in Japan? And it was not in the last two centuries but nearly a 1000 years ago? And yet another fun fact – this was not written by a man but a woman – and a Geisha at that? The novel the tale of the Genji by lady Murasaki Shibu was a captivating story that has survived to this day.
Haruki takes on the mantle and continues this rich tradition of storytelling from Lady Murasaki Shibu, and in Kafka on the shore – he pays tribute and an homage to the tale of the Genji. There are other references clearly visible – right from Franz Kafka, to Caulfield of catcher in the rye, and many many more.
Kafka on the shore is one his more linear narratives and possibly the only predictable one – the few times you know where this story is headed, to the point that this is the only one where a few scenes seemed to be contrived. But the narrative is superior, and you get sucked onto it and it absorbs you like all Haruki’s stories do.
I had read about the book in the review from John Updike in the New Yorker, so I knew where the title came in, but Haruki’s storytelling is remarkable that it still surprises you when you read about it first.
If you get fascinated by interesting facts and trivia, this book has it. Everything from Irony to the labyrinth is explained, from Greek works to the Nazi scientist –Eichmann, from Mozart and Beethoven to film director Francois Truffaut. It is clear that Haruki has read a rich life, and also done quite a bit of research, and you cant help Envying him for this
By the time I completed the book I had this long list of things to follow up and read, based on their appearance and mention in the book – and I of course envied Haruki for that. But then I realized that I might never like Truffaut or get the subtleties in western classical music, or never read about Eichmann since it depresses me so much – but I have Haruki, and for that I am really grateful….!!!