27 thoughts on “Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

  1. Pages 1 – 41

    “…my voice hasn’t broken completely. Most of the time I’ve kind of a low voice, but all of a sudden it turns on me and lets out a squeak.”

    Someone of the ‘male/female’ coordinate, in an ancient system of genders that is explained to him in the library at the end of this section of pages?
    Kafka Tamara – a nemonymous name assumed by himself – is 15, going on what he calls 17, and running away from Tokyo and from his home and ends up at a library miles away by bus (by means of which bus he meets a girl he fancies or, rather, she fancies him), a library you would be hard to find. I am entirely captivated already by its compellingly accessible narrative and by its Japanish hypnotic wandering with nothing a coincidence, captivated, too, by Kafka’s crow boy mentor’s sandstorm & omen….street lights that measure the earth. Kafka has an unsociable wall around him. [deleted] chance encounters.
    All interwoven with typed reports about an incident in 1944 (before Hiroshima) whereby schoolchildren inexplicably collapsed on a mushroom hunting trip.
    This story itself sometimes squeaks out of lowness, and towards the end of this section of pages,
    [bodies undulating like worms.]
    judging by the paperback’s backcover blurb about cats, Kafka meets his first cat in the vicinity of the haiku library towards the end of this section of pages.
    No
    future spoilers.

    “We’re coming from somewhere, heading somewhere else. That’s all you need to know, right?”

  2. Pages 41 – 55

    “Grunts and nods don’t add up to poetry. But maybe writing poetry brings out some hidden talent in him.”

    After Kafka’s tour as audience of the library alongside a middle-ageing married couple as part of the same audience, a couple seemingly dressed for hawling mountains, I, as an old man, myself, start talking to this book in the unique way that only I can do. With the book itself actually talking back at me. Otherwise, beyond this apparent skill of mine, I am not very smart, and merely a shadow of myself.

    “Instead of being smart, though, you found yourself able to talk to” [deleted]

  3. Pages 56 – 84

    “When the order came from the military, we dropped everything and took a train to [name deleted]”

    The sections of this book start coming together for me, in a sort of Zeno’s Paradox of Einstein on the Beach sort of way, if not Kafka on the Shore. In that 1946 official report, too, as if part of the Picnic at Hanging Rock syndrome, the number of children affected are all in multiples of 15 (15, 15, 30), and Kafka is 15 years old, and I suspect he is the one boy who never regained consciousness in 1944, till now in this Murakami with a genius- loci of an Ishiguro – THE UNCONSOLED or Quentin S. Crisp fiction type inscrutable-place with a library in Japan, or till he became an old man like me and started talking to [deleted] about tuna. Maybe the girl Sakura, who once similarly ran away, will replace the bold text of the crow-boy mentoring? The Arabian Nights or the Tale of Genji, notwithstanding. And, yes, Kafka’s obsession with gym training, as part of the Penal Colony?

  4. Pages 84 – 101

    Everything is there, but there are no parts.”

    Probably a very wise observation, particularly about this book. The old man Nakata (with senile dementia?) and his conversation with what this review calls ‘deleteds’, in a plot of land, reminiscent of Stephen King, where a tall man in a tall hat and a tall leather boots is cruel to deleteds by chopping off their tails, and in the next cockteasing chapter, perhaps the best of this kind in all literature, ends with Kafka stroking a deleted. (Also cf Nakata with Nakano Ward and Takamatsu.)

    “Why don’t you just go ahead and imagine what you want? You don’t need my permission? How can I know what’s in your head?”

    “This time I can sleep. A deep, deep sleep, maybe the deepest since I ran away from home. It’s as if I’m in some huge lift that slowly, silently carries me deeper and deeper underground.”

    NB: DREAMTIME is a musical work by Toru Takemitsu, from 1981.

  5. Pages 102 – 111

    “— namely that as individuals each of us is extremely isolated, while at the same time we were all linked by a prototypical memory.”

    A letter from the woman was was responsible for the party of children on the mushroom hunting, written to the man investigating the phenomenon, to whom she had originally given fake news about it. She now relates it to an erotic dream she had before taking the party there, and helps us begin the gestalt proper of this book, as if each piece we read is the next thing in a factory or machine process of clue gathering. Hunting menses, if not mushrooms? Trial and error. Fatalistic, if not free-wheeling. I call it preternatural, myself.

  6. Pages 112 – 137

    “Some pianists can play one or maybe two of the movements perfectly, but if you listen to all four movements as a unified whole, no one has ever nailed it.”

    Playing Schubert’s Piano Sonata in D Major or, as I know it, D850, in the car, Kafka is told by the haemophiliac driver of the perfection of imperfection in gestalt theory of Esthetics, or vice versa, and how it also relates to a novel called The Miner. And maybe this novel I am reading itself. Kafka is driven to the outskirts, to stay in a forest cabin, in Ishiguro Unconsoled fashion, with Zeno’s Paradox triangulation. As is Nakata taken similarly by a dog (k9?) to see the Cat Catcher, Johnnie Walker. Not the whiskey distiller, but perhaps the famous seasoned disc jockey of that name on Radio England?

    “Nakata no longer recognised where they were.”

  7. Pages 138 – 148

    “What I imagine is perhaps very important. For the entire world.”

    Trees, stars, owl, crow, Eichmann, Hitler, six million as a number… and wordless moss, paths petering out of words, we follow Kafka’s 16 year old imagination as a Gestalt. Walking in the forest, reading, eking out his music. Yet his penis does not obey the universal plan … beyond his control. As once he was told that nobody could control or even know his imagination, whoever he imagines he has sex with. Like the act of real-time reviewing of susceptible books?

  8. WARNING

    Pages 149 – 160

    “Perhaps in the end I’ll be able to make a flute so large it’ll rival the universe.”

    This section, featuring Nakata and Johnnie Walker, will — particularly, but not exclusively, for cat lovers — be the most horrific piece of literature you will ever read. Seriously.
    The cosmic flute and Puccini, notwithstanding.

    “‘No, this my hands will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine,…’”

  9. Pages 161 – 180

    “In ‘khoros’.”

    Sophocles to follow the Macbeth, Kafka’s stay in the cabin makes him now appreciate the world’s beautiful, natural sounds and he learns that he has been made ‘part’ of the library, and due to stay where the current head of the library’s boyfriend had lived many years before, before she lost him to a violent death… She once recorded a successful song the title of which is this book’s title, too. And Nakata confesses to the police about what he did to Johnnie Walker to save the cats who no longer seem to talk to him. He predicts fish raining down tomorrow. The police don’t really believe him. But we as readers do believe, I believe, that what he calls his “‘sub’ city” is really a misunderstanding for his state ‘subsidy’. A wry smile crosses my face.

  10. Pages 206 – 226

    “Could this be one of those connections that Mr Hagita was talking about? Eel = knife = Johnnie Walker?”

    Now Nagata seems to summon a rain shower of leeches to help stop a gang harming its victim. But strangely – in this increasingly Fortean book – the landed leeches that normally stick to our bodies provided a slippery lubrication upon which the traffic skidded!
    Then Oedipal irony, as Kafka seems to be fitting in with ineluctable prophecies concerning his father and sister away from whom he is running, running away perhaps because of a fate that such sticky prophecies provide. Yeats’ reference to the responsibility of dreams. Distance not being distance at all? And simple-minded Nakata is helped to travel further by a lorry driver who wants to help him because he looks like his Grandpa.

    “ There’s something about it I can’t unravel.”

  11. Pages 226 – 247

    “Though no one else noticed this, he thought his shadow on the ground was paler, lighter, than that of other people. The only ones who really understood him were the cats.”

    A more orderly backstory for Nakata, perhaps explaining his disarming predicaments now, and what he inherited from the 1944 ‘accident’. And now a wondrous reunion with the sea, the sea he had forgotten.
    An ‘absurd shore’ (in the eponymous song’s lyrics), a shore of memory upon what sea? Or a future shore on icebergless seas? Kafka’s querying whether living people can have ghosts. The 15 year old girl he see in his library room and her connection with the eponymous song, that we now hear played on an old fashioned record player. Genji and chrysanthemums. Samurai and Saeki. Jung and Freud. An ‘iceberg of darkness’.

    “Were all these just coincidences?”

  12. Pages 248 – 265

    Entrance stone?”

    As an old man myself with an old man’s once-every-two-hours bladder, I cannot believe that Nakata can sleep solidly for 24 hours! The lorry driver seems to have fully adopted him now, because of the resemblance to his Grandpa. And Kafka has further dreams of seeing the ghost girl – or actually seeing her – in his room at the library, and wonders if she grew up to be who his mother is … reflecting previous Oedipal thoughts….and now wants the sheet music for the eponymous song. Time, unlike space, is never as the crow boy flies… “You’ve wandered into a labyrinth of time, and the biggest problem of all is that you have no desire at all to get out.” Exit as well entrance being made of – or filled with – stone rather than just having stones to mark them?

  13. Pages 266 – 271

    “I look for the 15-year-old girl in her and find her straight away. She’s hidden, asleep, like a 3-D painting in the forest of her heart.”

    15-year-old Kafka’s conversation with the mature lady who once was that girl is touching, indeed, monumental as well as momentous. She once wrote a book on lightning. That fact comes like a bolt of literary lightning. As does the two disparate chords Kafka later hears in the Kafka on the Shore song, chords playing off against each other in an inspiration of her composition. The lyrics contain the words “entrance stone”, I see. (Why did I quote that yesterday?) Each a flashpoint amid continuous moments of potential change during the flow of time. A bolt of meaningful silence between two chords?

  14. Pages 272 – 296

    “‘Pure coincidence’, the old man boomed out. ‘Don’t blame me.’”

    Nakata, via massage and message, still seeks the stone, helped by his lorry-driver surrogate ‘grandson’, who, in turn, meets that old man in the quote, another old man, called, not Johnnie Walker, but Colonel Sanders, and the lorry-driver has arranged by Colonel Sanders the slickest sexride possible with a drop-gorgeous girl, as well as given a clue as to the stone’s whereabouts. While Kafka, in the other inter-leaving thread of this book, speaks to his ghost, but is he in love with the 15 year old ghost or the real 50 year old woman whose ghost it is? I nod my head up and down as I try the follow the ups and downs of this book. If you have read it yourself, you will know why I do this. A pure coincidence of nods in synastry…?

  15. Pages 297 – 310

    “I’m kind of an overseer, supervising something to make sure it fulfils its original role. Checking the correlations between different worlds, making sure things are in the right order. So results follow causes and meanings don’t get all mixed up.”

    A better description of Gestalt Real-Time Reviewing you would need to go far to find. But I don’t always achieve these expectations, and sometimes, indeed, I end up doing the opposite! Meanwhile, here we have Kafka meeting the ghost for real as the library woman it now is, with rather more than just a handjob that the girl whom he now phones once gave him. Another slickness of sex, achieved with utmost efficiency. And, elsewhere, the entrance stone is found for Nakata, found for him by the real-time reviewer, well, sort of.
    And the fluidity of God in Japan, in fact, a bespoke God — as with all reality-in-flux?

  16. Pages 311 – 326

    “Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves.”

    Pieces, or chords? A statement and question that perhaps apotheosises this book’s culminating jigsaw of prophecies. Prophecies that are Oedipal as well as temporal: time pulsing in and out, then chasing the language of cats in whatever country they live, or things relevant to the sought stone that Nakata can trace like a map, or Haydn’s powdered wig. I always have a wig when Gestalt real-time reviewing, travelling its cauliflower crevices… Another fiction that Dickens might take pages to describe.

  17. Pages 326 – 350

    “The child’s the father of the man, they say.”

    Wordsworth, words’ worth, word’s worth, whether one or many. And on the day today that Trump declares he will declare a state of emergency –
    “‘The people who build high, strong fences are the ones who survive the best.’ […] ‘I’m not after a wall that’ll repel power coming from outside. What I want is the kind of strength to be able to absorb that outside power,…’”
    And amid thunder to match that book about lightning we hear of the seemingly uneventful opening of the entrance stone, a stone that has become impossibly as heavy as my own observed ULO (Unidentified Landed Object) over the last year or so since it has been here, partly at least made of stone. A world with too many geniuses like Beethoven?

  18. Pages 351 – 367

    “Just imagine you are a clam.”

    A clam, not a tuna with two chords, not even an eel, nor a leech. We follow thoughts about Truffaut films, and Haydn again. And the two characters, Kafka and his counterpart Nakata, are both woken to urgently abandon where they are living, forthwith. That earlier naive policeman has coughed, I guess. And as to Nakata’s sleep pattern (irrespective of the open and shut case regarding the stone by his bedside) I notice it is described as ‘hibernation’ rather than sleep proper. My earlier fears for his bladder may be unwarranted? Do animals piss when in hibernation, I ask myself? Did Mozart have a posthorn? Sad, meanwhile, to hear about the weakening will to live of Kafka’s library lady. Colonel Sanders’ nature as a concept, notwithstanding. A pair of unconsoled chords sounding together or one after another?

  19. Pages 367 – 381

    “Better not to try make sense, he decided, of what basically doesn’t make any.”

    “What’s at the bottom of the sea?”
    Only Captain Nemo knows. Or that scene in Mann’s Dr Faustus.

    “As they say, though, ‘Take the poison, take the plate.’”

    “‘You’ve never been bored before?’
    ‘No, not even once.’”

    Previous three quotes regard myself as Nakata.

    “This is pretty obvious, but until things happen, they haven’t happened. And often things aren’t what they seem.”

    Labyrinths and guts, a new slant on objective-correlatives and Gestalt real-time reviewing:
    “A reciprocal metaphor. Things outside you are projections of what inside you, and what’s inside you is a projection of what’s outside.”

    This reciprocal metaphor is an aching echo of Kafka’s need for the library lady, when he is left alone again in the cabin, without her, still hoping for her youthful ghost or at best her now-herself. Chord for chord.

  20. Pages 382 – 411

    “‘‘Chance’ is a scary thing, isn’t it?’ Hoshino said.
    ‘It certainly is,’ Nakata agreed.”

    And, as if by such chance, I have just noticed that the main characters in this book, other than Kafka/ Crow (who, in these pages, dreams strikingly of having sex with a young dreaming girl who is thus forced-dreaming, so is it rape?), these main characters when seen as a pair of twos — Hoshino – Oshima and Nakata – Saeki — are roughly in assonance with the names of the two cities atom-bombed by America, soon after the mushroom-picnic ‘accident’ that arguably created Nakata’s naive genius in talking to cats and now a stone…
    The huge black butterfly, notwithstanding.
    I have decided that, tonight, I shall listen again to Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, and to Radiohead’s KID A.

  21. Pages 412 – 451

    “‘Listen — there’s no war that will end all wars,’ Crow tells me. ‘War grows within war.’”

    And fiction within fiction. Memories, too, whether of real events or not. Coltrane as a labyrinth of sounds. Two Japanese soldiers leading through it like two chords? Each with a half-shadow. “Memories warm you from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” Later, the chords seem like lizards. The methodical narrative – almost boring – still compels you to read it. As two of the four characters leave the pages by dint of your being told of their deaths. One pair, when named together, vaguely constitute one of the atom-bombed cities. Meanwhile, Kafka is taken to another cabin further away from civilisation into the forest that is better equipped, even with a TV, and electricity from wind power. He killed his father, had sex with his mother and sister, boldprinted Crow believes. The patterns conspire to complete their own single pattern. Nakata is probably one of the most compelling characters you will go far to find in any reading journey, despite his long ‘hibernations’. Now entered an endless one, I guess. Rejoined his Saeki at last. Says somewhere on the back cover this book is ‘bewildering’. I feel it is the book that is bewildered and the reader clear-sighted.

  22. Pages 451 – 505

    An old TV set looks thrown away and with no remote, but it still works perfectly. A bit like this book. KafKA/ Crow, please compare my earlier real-time review of KA by John Crowley about a crow : https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/ka-dar-oakley-in-the-ruin-of-ymr-john-crowley/ and the fact that today in the news, the world’s biggest bee was rediscovered alive: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47311186DB6C31C6-E862-4684-8A1B-75710A805AFF
    There is so much more to say about these end pages: the cabin beyond the cabin, beyond any mushroom picnic, with a home help in the persona of an unknowing Miss Saeki at age 15, whence which cabin Kafka returns with Oshima’s brother talking about surfing and a confluence of sea currents called the Toilet Bowl. And the unforgettable scene of the creature expelled by Nakata’s dead body – a sort of a mutation of the Nagashima monster oozing from his mouth that needs killing before we can finish this book. “Putting it into words will destroy any meaning.” But certainly it is a scene from literature that is utterly something else. Azathoth at the earth’s core, I guess. The entrancing stone. That impossibly heavy Unidentified Landed Object. And how to kill best with bayonet blades, stabbing then turning. Or chopping up with a hatchet. Or with Gestalt real-time reviewing: “You we’re in this huge house that was like a maze, searching for some special room, but you couldn’t find it.” Never to forget the one you loved, and that she only wanted to know that you would never forget her. And that someone else important looked good in a tie. “In other words, you’ll live forever in your own private library.”

    end

    “Perhaps in the end I’ll be able to make a flute so large it’ll rival the universe.”

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