Kafka rannallaby Published 01 Mar 2009
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Kun Kafka Tamura oli neljävuotias, hänen äitinsä ja sisarensa häipyivät tuntemattomille teille. Siitä lähtien Kafka on asunut kahdestaan etäisen isänsä kanssa. Nyt Kafka täyttää viisitoista ja päättää karata kotoaan. Takaraivossa jyskyttää isän julma profetia, mutta myös hatara toive äidin ja siskon löytämisestä.
Kuusikymppinen Nakata ei ole koskaan toipunut lapsena kokemastaan oudosta onnettomuudesta, jonka seurauksena hän menetti muistinsa täydellisesti. Hän ei osaa lukea eikä kirjoittaa, mutta hän osaa keskustella kissojen kanssa ja on siksi hyvä löytämään kadonneita kotikissoja. Erään kissan liikkeitä selvittäessään hän joutuu Koichi Tamuran eli Kafkan isän taloon. Sen jälkeen hänen yksinkertainen, rutiinien rytmittämä elämä suistuu raiteiltaan. Nakata joutuu pakenemaan.
Sekä Kafka että Nakata päätyvät Tokiosta Takamatsuun, eteläiselle Shikokun saarelle, ja heidän tarinansa nivoutuvat yhteen. Unenomaiset tapahtumat vangitsevat lukijan maailmaan, jossa "ilmanpaine, äänten värähtelyt, valon heijastukset, se miten kappaleet liikkuvat ja aika kuluu - kaikki muuttuu vähä vähältä".
Kafka rannalla Reviews
Kafka on the Shore is a metaphor. It follows no rules, it doesn’t adhere to reason, and applicability is not an issue. It fills you up, it tears you down. A fugue of emotions are present, you can’t seem to figure out which of the many different realizations flooding you is most important. Waves roll up again and again on the beach of your consciousness and at first you resist, but after a while you understand that your struggle is pointless, so you give in. You read, you feel, you try to understand, you try to make sense. And you know what? You love it.
I don’t think I can adequately get the gist of a Murakami experience on a goodreads review. It’s something else, something you have to experience for yourself. I will try, but I know I shall fail. You have to realize that reading Murakami requires a unity of perception and feeling. I can try to make you understand certain concepts found in the book, but I will fall short on the sensory part. Murakami’s strength is the feeling he wraps around his teachings. He’s a surrealist painter, a musician, an oddity that weaves consciousness with pop-culture and makes it work. People say his works are easily accessible yet elegantly complex, I whole-heartedly agree. His style is so rich and resonant that it can dabble into lunacy without any sort of urgency. He isn’t regulated in any way, a writer free from normative paradigms and moral constraints. He’s pretty strange, but trust me, it’s awesome the way he writes. Okay, I’m gonna stop myself here. All I’m going to say is try it, experience it. See for yourself.
This novel is shared between two people’s inter-connected tales of self-discovery. A damaged fifteen year-old named Kafka, an illiterate and magical old-man named Nakata, one fleeing from something, the other searching, one looking forward, the other looking back, one with a bright future ahead of him, the other with a dark past. Two very different people, yet their fates are intertwined by something so inconspicuous.
As I said, Murakami hurls many different things at you at break-neck speed. He can talk about fate one minute, then drop it and talk about imperfection the next. It’s kind of messy at times, but the cumulative effect is still pretty solid. It’s like he’s packing everything in a mumble-jumble of thoughts that confusion is a constant. But when you sift through his words, you find that your confusion is more of feeling than an actual state of mind. You understand him perfectly, but you can’t put into words the emotion inside you. Stunning is I think the closest word possible to describing it. For me, though, the thing that stood out the most was his ode to time.
“Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through is now like something from the distant past. We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.”
Time is an important concept. It is correlated to love and memory, two other topics that are central in Murakami’s points. You see, some people when they find love and are at their happiest, they want to freeze time and live in that moment forever. But what they have to know is that a moment alone will lose all meaning. The present is useless without both the past and future. You cannot appreciate something without knowing how you got there nor understanding that something will come out of it. The past gives a history, the future a possibility. Time is thing of beauty. Life without it is like air, you exist but you are stagnant and boring. With it, it is like the wind, moving, dancing, flowing into the unknown. But not only that, time makes love possible, because love takes time.
“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library.”
Aside from love, time also makes one important thing possible. Memories. “If you remember me, then I don't care if everyone else forgets.” It allows us to store things inside our minds so that we can cherish them as long as we can. It permits us to remember those that have been, those that build up who we are. Because each person is shaped by the cumulative memories that he or she makes. Whether they may be happy or painful or boring, they mold us into who we are. Identity is slowly transformed over time, with our memories playing a vital role.
“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.”
Our identity, no matter how much time and memories change it, some part of it will stay the same. There are things that are unchangeable, things that will make you look into the past and see the same thing now. But, there are things that we purposely hold on to that hurt us, things that we hide in us and contain through time. Things that we can let go of, but we don’t, even if it is painful. A time will come when you will have to let go.
“In everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”
“As long as there’s such a thing as time, everybody‘s damaged in the end, changed into something else.
“But if that happens, you’ve got a place you can retrace your steps to”
“Retrace your steps to?”
“A place that’s worth coming back to.”
As I finish this review, I’m very excited. Yes, I know that I’ve got my memories to look back to, but what I’m excited about are those memories that haven’t been made yet. The future is ahead of me, I’ve got time on my hands. The possibilities are endless.
When I awoke, I realized I had slept through the night. But had it been a dream or not? It was impossible to tell. I got up, took a shower, brushed my teeth and shaved, paying special attention to my neck. When my face was again smooth and slightly pink from the razor, I went into the kitchen for breakfast.
I washed down an English muffin and jelly with two cups of strong black coffee, no sugar added, and walked out onto the balcony. The sun was still creeping higher in the sky, struggling to break through a heavy bank of clouds.
"It looks like a rather gloomy day," I said to no one in particular.
"I don't know about that," a voice said to my left.
I turned to see a small gray tabby cat, lounging on the next balcony over. Even without a sunbeam to sleep in, he seemed to already be enjoying what promised to be another gray, humid day.
"Oh, hello," I said, slightly surprised. I had never seen this cat before. "I thought I knew all of the cats around here. Where did you come from?"
"Who can say?" replied the cat. "I go where I want to, when I want to. I don't like to think about such things. It's how I prefer to live my life."
"I see," I replied. "Well, what is your name? It is easier for me to speak to you if I know your name."
"I don't have a name," the cat said. "Why should I? I don't need one."
"Well if you don't mind, I will call you Princess Sparkles," I said.
"If that makes things easier for you, though I am a boy," the cat said, yawning lazily. "You seem altogether too concerned with formalities for such an early morning. Why so serious?"
I studied Princess Sparkles with interest. He was a very astute judge of character. Or at least mood.
"You're right," I said. "I have been thinking of a strange dream I had last night and I am not sure I understand what it was all about. Would you like to hear about it?"
"If you like," Princess Sparkles said. "We cats aren't much for dreams. Our lives are so very interesting that we don't have much use for letting our imaginations wander during sleep."
"Well it was very strange," I said. "And it did involve cats. In the first part of the dream, I was a teenage boy, recently run away from home due to a possibly abusive father. After traveling solo for several days, I came across a quaint little library operated by an odd man and a woman who seemed very familiar. She reminded me of my mother, but then again, maybe she didn't. I was never quite sure on that score."
"I never knew my mother," interjected Princess Sparkles, stretching out a paw to bat at a passing ant.
"The odd man liked to talk about philosophy a lot, and music, and pencils, but a lot of that went over my head. When things got really obtuse was when he took me to an isolated cabin in the woods, where I started having vivid sexual dreams and visions of another world."
"Sounds fascinating," said the cat, eying a small squirrel crossing the telephone wire. "I haven't had much use for sex, either, but not having balls might have something to do with that."
As if to illustrate his point, Princess Sparkles quickly shifted position, stretching a leg over his head, and began to lick his crotch.
"Go on," he said, looking up at me. "I'm still listening."
"Well," I continued, "in the other part of my dream, I was this old man who was a bit slow-witted. I could still talk to cats, but I couldn't read. I was actually looking for a lost cat when I met an evil man who liked to kill cats quite brutally, cutting them open while they were still alive. It was quite horrific."
"We do have our enemies," Princess Sparkles said, again looking up from his washing. "Some people find us threatening. I suppose it is because we don't let them boss us around like mere dogs."
"So anyway, I killed this evil man, who was a product mascot, even though I didn't recognize him, not being a whiskey drinker, and then passed out, but when I woke up, there was no blood. I tried to tell the police but they wouldn't listen to me. But then I felt compelled to leave town, and hitched a ride with a truck driver who took me a couple towns over. We didn't do too much along the way but I knew I had to keep looking for something. The guy was really quite nice and interesting. Eventually we found that same library, and I talked with the woman and man, but the boy wasn't there. I wasn't sure if that was because he was another version of me or maybe because he was at the cabin. It was all very confusing. Like having nine lives, I bet."
Princess Sparkles eyed me angrily. "That is a myth," he said. "When I die, I am just as dead as you. People just say cats have nine lives to justify their ill treatment of us."
"That's probably true," I told him. "Lots of people don't like to think about the pain and suffering of others, especially animals. Continuing my dream, my truck driving friend found what we were looking for, which was this big rock, but I didn't really understand that part. The man from Kentucky Fried Chicken helped him. Colonel Sanders was also a pimp and set the truck driver up with a beautiful college student who quoted Hegel. Come to think of it, there were other sex parts in the dream that I forgot to mention. Quite a few, actually."
I continued my story, gazing out again at the overcast sky.
"The truck driver had to turn over the rock, which I think was the door to the underworld or limbo. Meanwhile, as the boy, I visited the underworld and met the ghost of the lady who worked at the library, even though she was still alive previously, or maybe not, because she was old and young at the same time. I left the strange place and in the other part of the dream, the truck driver turned over the rock again. There was a bunch of stuff about a painting, a UFO, song lyrics, jazz, time travel, a slug monster, war, death and memory too, but those parts are slipping away, even now."
I took a deep breath. Suddenly I felt more exhausted than I ever had in my entire life. "What do you think it means?" I asked, turning to the cat.
Princess Sparkles had fallen asleep.
"It's not something you can get across in words. The real response is something words can't express."
"There you go," Sada replies. "Exactly. If you can't get it across in words then it's better not to try."
"Even to yourself?" I ask.
"Yeah, even to yourself," Sada says. "Better not to try to explain it, even to yourself."
Facebook 30 Day Book Challenge Day 28: Last book you read.
Surreal. Poignant. Magical. Weird. And a classic Murakami from beginning to end.
This was my third book by Mr. Murakami. 1Q84, I enjoyed but I don’t think I will be recommending it to anyone. Then came Norwegian Woods which I loved and have recommended to many friends. But Kafka on the Shore held a special place in the hearts of my friends who have read Murakami. This seems to be their favourite. So I went into this with high expectations, and Mr. Murakami did not disappoint.
Story starts with the divulgence of a high profile investigation that happened in second WW. Fast forward five decades and we are introduced to Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old, who runs away from his family to find the truth about himself. Few chapters after we met our second main character Nakata, a simpleton who talks to cats. After his retirement, Nakata survives by finding lost cats for people because of his special abilities. Even though they are miles apart from each other, and yet their story so intricately woven that it is hard to comprehend where one starts and the other ends.
For me, this was the weirdest magical realm that I have ever read. Fishes falling from the sky, talking to cats (is there a word for being able to talk to cats?), a man obsessed with the idea of creating a flute with the souls of cats, a man killing another man while the killer got away spotless, it was someone else woke up with a bloodied shirt miles away. I am sure any other time I would have DNFed something this weird but Mr. Murakami put a spell on me and I kept turning pages. The desire to know more about Kafka and Nakata and how their story entwines was too much.
Just like 1Q84 and Norwegian Woods, Murakami tells us a lot about music and books through his characters. Whenever I read him I end up searching authors and musicians. I love how he uses these two in his stories.
So much happened in this book yet I will remember this book for its serenity and dreamlike story. Though he didn’t give us a conclusion here but I think this is the best way to end it. I don’t think a perfect ending is possible for this story. There will always be more “hows” and “buts”, so it’s better to let reader to create their own conclusion for this one.
A challenging but also an amazing read.
Few books have infected me with boredom-induced ADD, the desire to gnaw my own foot off at the ankle, and the state of mind you might experience if forced to sit upon a nest of hornets while watching your home being burglarized, but this was one of them. It took me until page 70 to stop wanting to hop up and rearrange the spice cupboard or my sock drawer every few sentences, but then the feeling returned at page 243. Only 224 pages to go! From then on, my hatred and resentment of this book progressively grew like a dead cow bloating in the heat.
“Kafka on the Shore” is a mess. It is such a mess that it makes my six-year-old son’s post-playdate bedroom look like Buckingham Palace. Loosely based on the Oedipus myth, and taking some obvious inspiration from Catcher in the Rye, this book seems to be little more than a random hodgepodge of ideas held together with pipe cleaners and raspberry jam.
There was so much to hate about this book. Here are just a few things:
1. Boring, unnecessary descriptions – that do nothing to further the story – of what people are wearing, what Kafka likes to do during his workout, what he decides to eat, what he is listening to on his Walkman, and so on. I wouldn’t have been surprised to read a monologue from Kafka along the lines of: “When I wipe my arse, I like to use just four squares of toilet paper, no more, no less. I count them out – one, two, three, four. Then I fold the length over once, and again. Equipped now with the perfect, handheld quilt, I wipe in a single, expert, sweeping motion – front to back. Examine the paper to determine whether I need to repeat the process. However, I would add that this is only if the paper is two-ply. For one-ply paper, I need a minimum of eight sheets, but only if they are of high quality. If not of high quality, the boy Crow reminds me, ‘Remember, you’ve got to be the toughest 15-year-old on the planet.’”
2. The gratuitous cat torture scene. Johnnie Walker (him off the whiskey bottle) has to cut the hearts out of living cats and eat them so that he can collect cat souls to make a special kind of flute. There is no freakin’ point to this scene whatsoever – we never hear about Johnnie or his cat-flute again.
3. The annoying way characters – Oshima in particular – deliver sermons about philosophy, art, literature and classical music. It took me right out of the story (tangled mess though it was) and smacked of “Look at me – aren’t I clever?”
4. The screechy-preachy scene with the “feminist” caricatures in the library.
5. Hate to be ungroovy or whatever – but I just couldn’t stand any of the sex scenes, particularly with Miss Saeki, the 50-something librarian who gets it on over and over again with the 15-year-old protagonist even though he and she both know she might be his long-lost mother. Excuse me while I go mop the vomitus off of my living room wall.
After the first 100 pages I thought that I might end up giving this book three stars. Another 100 pages on, I decided two stars. By page 331 I decided one star, and by the end of this frustrating, pretentious, and completely unsatisfying book, I felt like I’d squandered so much of my precious life reading this pile o’ doo-doo that I didn’t want to give it even one star. However, since Mr. Murakami knows how to spell (or at least, I’m assuming he does since this is a translation) I will relent.
In the end, love or loathing of a book is entirely subjective, and scores of critics loved this one. As for me, I feel that if I’d wanted to find meaning in a random jumble of junk, I would have had more luck going to the thrift store and sifting through the bric-a-brac box than wasting time on Mr. Murakami’s brain-omelette.
”Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn.
Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.”
His given name isn’t Kafka Tamura, but when he decides to strike out on his own he gave himself a name that more properly fit the version of himself he wanted to become. Kafka means crow in Czech. A name of significance to an inner self. His father is a world famous sculptor, a man admired for the strength of emotion his creations inspire. He also brought his son into existence (no hocus pocus here...the old fashioned way) molding him as if he were inanimate clay, infusing him with imagination, and in the end like a demented soothsayer, warping him with an Oedipus curse.
Kill the father.
Sex the sister.
Seduce the mother.
”It’s all a question of imagination. Our responsibility begins with the power to imagine. It’s just like Yeats said: In dreams begin responsibilities. Flip this around and you could say that where there’s no power to imagine, no responsibility can arise.”
Kafka is fifteen, not going on sixteen, but barely fifteen. He is on a quest
to find himself.
to lose himself.
to escape himself.
to avoid the prophecy.
Like an arrow shot by a sure hand he lands at a private library managed by a beautiful woman named Miss Saeki. ”I look for the fifteen-year-old girl in her and find her right away. She’s hidden, asleep, like a 3-D painting in the forest of her heart. But if you look carefully you can spot her. My chest starts pounding again, like somebody’s hammering a long nail into the walls surrounding it.” Kafka feels a kinship with her that makes him wonder if she is his long lost mother. She has experienced tragedy, losing a lover when she was fifteen, and leaving behind a ghost of herself that becomes a haunting experience for Kafka.
”While they’re still alive, people can become ghosts.”
As a parallel story we follow the old man Nakata and his truck driving sidekick Hoshino. Nakata experienced something as a child during the war that left him unable to comprehend reality, but also opened up doorways in his mind to things that if they ever existed... in our minds... have long been lost.
He is crazy.
He is a prophet.
He can talk to cats.
He can understand stones.
He can open an umbrella and leeches or fish or lightening can fall from the sky.
He isn’t crazy.
Nakata searches for lost cats and discovers in the process that he has an arch nemesis in a cat killing phantom named Johnnie Walker. Johnnie turns cats into beautiful flutes and collects their heads in a similar fashion to big game hunters. After a confrontation Nakata finds himself with the need to leave which dovetails perfectly with his quest to find an entrance stone that opens up another world, another world where things have been left behind.
"You should start searching for the other half of your shadow.”
The connection between Nakata and Kafka are very strong. Their dreams mingle, a nemesis for one is a nemesis for the other. They may have different names, but they are one and the same. The quest for one of our heroes is contingent on the success of the other. If they are aware of each other it is buried under their own current perceptions of reality.
One of the more humorous moments is when Hoshino, once a perfectly sane normal human being, meets Colonel Sanders, not someone dressed as Colonel Sanders, but the finger lickin’ good, fried chicken magnet himself. Hoshino, after several days of trying to wrap his head around the eccentricities of his traveling companion, is in need of relaxation. As it turns out the Colonel can help him have the best time of his life.
He hooks him up with a prostitute, but not just any prostitute.
”The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory.”
A philosophical prostitute with a special penchant for Hegel.
”Hegel believed that a person is not merely conscious of self and object as separate entities, but through the projection of the self via the mediation of the object is volitionally able to gain a deeper understanding of the self. All of which constitutes self-consciousness.”
“I dont’ know what the heck you’re talking about.”
“Well, think of what I’m doing to you right now. For me I’m the self, and you’re the object. For you, of course, it’s the exact opposite--you’re the self to you and I’m the object. And by exchanging self and object, we can project ourselves into the other and gain self-consciousness. Volitionally.”
“I still don’t get it, but it sure feels good.”
“That’s the whole idea.” the girl said.
I have a new appreciation for Hegel.
Kafka also meets a fantastic character named Oshima which I really can’t talk about without explaining him in detail, but by explaining him in detail would reveal a rather surprising moment in the book which I really want to preserve for those that haven’t read this book yet. Let’s just say he isn’t exactly who he seems, but he is exactly who he says he is. He proves to be the perfect friend for anyone, but for a dream questing fifteen year old runaway trying to escape an Oedipus Curse he is a steady rock to understand even those things beyond the scope of comprehension. He sees things for more than what they are.
Oshima explains to Kafka why he likes Schubert.
”That’s why I like to listen to Schubert while I’m driving. Like I said, it’s because all the performances are imperfect. A dense, artistic kind of imperfection stimulates your consciousness, keeps you alert. If I listen to some utterly perfect performance of an utterly perfect piece while I’m driving. I might want to close my eyes and die right then and there. But listening to the D major, I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of--that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally, I find that encouraging.”
It is hard for those of us who have based their whole life off of reason to keep from instantly dismissing the improbable, the impossible, the absurd, the preposterous, but you must if you are going to hang with Haruki Murakami. Although, I must say there is something very accessible about his writing style that makes the transition from reality to alternative reality to fantasy back to a new reality painless.
We all have mystical things happen to us. We rarely recognize it, most times we fill in what we don’t understand with something we can understand and in the process snap the threads of the extraordinary. I feel the lure of the unknown quite regularly. I feel the itch to leave everything and go someplace where no one knows my name. A place where maybe I can find the rest of my self, the lost selves each holding a fragment of the missing part of my shadow.
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