kafka on the shore book review

A Unique Emotional Breakdown With Kafka On The Shore By Haruki Murakami

August 31, 2019Krisha

Fast Facts

Title: Kafka On The Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami

Genre: Magical Realism


Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.

Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle—yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.



Well, how does one begin to describe Kafka On The Shore?

Maybe I can start by saying that it’s nothing that I expected and everything I ever wanted in a book.

This tale is mainly about two intersecting storylines: one of a juvenile runaway who fashions a new name for himself, Kafka Tamura, and his wild journey to escape a grotesque prophecy. The other is all about Mr. Nakata, a simpleton war survivor who has a penchant for talking to cats (the cats talk back, too, you know).

The reader is then taken on a journey across Japan, between worlds, across imaginations. For me, said journey ended in a mini emotional breakdown on the bus ride home, feeling wistful and content at the same time. Both stories were an odyssey unto themselves, where nothing seemed to make sense, but in the end, they all somehow did.

Then again, isn’t that what Haruki Murakami is all about?

Kafka On The Shore is long and oftentimes winding, and more than a handful of strange things occur all throughout the novel. These things are why I love this book so much. Kafka On The Shore is confusing, intriguing, and downright weird, but somehow, you just let Murakami take you on the journey nonetheless.

And boy, what a journey it will be.

I love that the book treats the readers with respect. Nothing is spoonfed. You’re left to wonder, speculate, grow with these characters, and draw your own conclusions. You’re allowed to sympathize with the characters, be disgusted with their choices, and wonder what the heck is going on. You rarely get books like that these days.

Kafka On The Shore serves metaphors dressed as magical realism left and right, and Murakami just leaves you to figure that shit out for yourself.

Another thing that I love about Kafka On The Shore is how almost every scene had a dream-like quality to it. Haruki Murakami’s prose is simple yet he manages to spin such a fully immersive experience for his readers.

I love that he takes his time to draw out a scene for you.

In Kafka On The Shore, he does this so, so well. I’m taken to each and every picture. I’m right there in the library, in the cabin in the woods, on Kafka’s sleeper bus.


To me, Murakami seems so cock-sure with his words, like he knows that he doesn’t have to prove anything as a writer. He doesn’t seem to try very hard with his prose, and yet he paints such a poignant picture.

So many authors out there write with such a heavy hand, saturating their pages with too-rich descriptions, tangled narratives, and confusing metaphors. I’d like to compare these writers’ works as oil paintings. In contrast, Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore in a delicate, fluid watercolor piece.

Character growth is another thing to love about Kafka On The Shore.

To say that both main characters were never the same at the end of the novel would be quite an understatement. As I mentioned, the book takes you on a wild, winding journey. And as with all journeys, both Kafka and Mr Nakata discover things about themselves and the world around them that would forever change who they are and how they view themselves.

Have You Read Kafka On The Shore?

Most people begin their Murakami journey with the popular, albeit somber, Norwegian Wood, but I think Kafka On The Shore takes the cake for what a Murakami book really is. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest that you grab a copy and start now.

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