This summer I was clipping along reading a novel every two or three days and getting all prideful about it. Until I came to Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami. It took me almost two weeks to read 436 pages; in fact, it’s probably due at the library today.
But, I’m not disappointed. I wanted to take that much time to dwell in the world Murakami created. I needed to take that much time to absorb what he has to say. Much of it, sadly, is still unabsorbed.
The big themes are clear to me: abandonment, hope, sorrow, discovery, disillusionment, Oedipal complexes, fantasy, forgiveness, and fate. The book is universal in its application to our emotions.
We have two main characters: Kafka (“Crow” in Czech), and Nakata. The former is a fifteen year old man-child who runs away from home, mostly to discover answers about his mother who left him when he was four. The later, Nakata, is an older man who has limited intellectual abilities as we might understand them, but great reasoning powers and strength in his own right. Nakata, seemingly unaware of Kafka’s plight, helps him throughout the novel in fantastical ways.
An entrance stone is stolen from a shrine by Nakata, and moved so that Kafka can enter and leave a secret world. Leeches fall from the sky in a necessary moment for protection. An evil man is stabbed, cats are spoken to, the right person is found at the right time in almost magical ways.
I think that Murakami alludes to these events as fate, however I believe them to be the necessary intervention of God who directs our steps. That’s something I’m not going further with here, just a personal interjection of my own…
Wikipedia has this fascinating quote: “In an interview posted on his English language website, Murakami stated that the secret to understanding the novel lies in reading it multiple times. Murakami: “Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the kind of novel I set out to write.”
I think I’ll have to turn in this library copy, and buy one of my own, because I certainly need to read it again. And, I definitely want to.