Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Kafka on the Shore

by Murakami Haruki

You sit at the edge of the world,
I am in a crater that is no more.
Words without letters
Standing in the shadow of the door.

The moon shines down on a sleeping lizard,
Little fish rain down from the sky.
Outside the window there are soldiers,
steeling themselves to die.

Kafka sits in a chair by the shore,
Thinking of the pendulum that moves the world,
it seems.
When your heart is closed,
The shadow of the unmoving Sphinx,
Becomes a knife that pierces your dreams.

The drowning girl's fingers
Search for the entrance stone, and more.
Lifting the hem of her azure dress,
She gazes---
at Kafka on the shore.

Tamura Kafka runs away from home on his fifteenth birthday. Above him the shadow of a prophecy like in a Greek tragedy and the memory of a mother and a sister who he's not seen for eleven years. Kafka runs away, and goes to live in a Library.

I had read that Norwegian Wood was a rather atypical novel in the production of Murakami, and now that I finally read another of his novels I can say that if the other books resemble more closely Kafka on the Shore then Murakami is going to become soon one of my favorite authors!

Murakami's style is always very special. In this novel things are also complicated because of different narrators. We have the story of Tamura Kafka told by himself in first person, present tense, with some intermission (usually marked in bold) of the boy named Crow that speaks directly to Kafka, then in second person. These chapters are interspersed with others (written with different fonts to distinguish them) containing the U.S. documents about a strange incident that occurred in Japan in a mountain village during the Second World War (which I must say I have been very curious about) and then by the story of the old Nakata wich is instead normally told in third person and past tense. Also there are very short stories to study other characters that from secondary start to become important.
I really loved this alternation of different stories! The end of each chapter left me with the curiosity to know more, but still I had to wait another whole chapter to go on, but, needless to say, in the meantime I got into the new one and at the end I could not wait to continue with that!

The main characters are few, and I liked everyone a lot. The only one, to be honest, I found a bit annoying at times was our protagonist, Tamura Kafka, but maybe it's just because I don't particularly like these kids so wise and deep.
I loved Nakata, instead! How not to love this odd old man who speaks of himself in third person, can neither read nor write but can speak with cats, and seems to be a magnet for kind and generous people who will bend over backwards to help him, and usually will receive in return, perhaps unwittingly, a certain serenity?
Another character I really appreciated is Ōshima. He's strange, too, by his own admission, and he's won me over for his calm competence, his passionate culture and its perennial kindness.
Hoshino, I really loved him, perhaps because he entered the stiry by accident, and I didn't think he would have stayed instead he's become a very important character. Then also because he is ignorant and sometimes apparently also not too smart, but he shows a sensitivity that even with all the culture of the world someone can acquire.
Ms. Saeki (I almost forgot about her!) enters quitley, and she especially charms because of how she's described by others: we see very little of her (and to be honest when she begins to be more present I begin to like her a little less).
Finally, how not to mention the enigmatic boy named Crow, who opens and closes the novel!

The plot, also because of the alternation of points of view, is rich and complex, and certainly fascinating! It starts giving us a lot of curiosity on the stories of Kafka and the children in the prefecture of Yamanashi, making us discover little by little their history, and bringing more and more doubts. A lot of strange things happen around Ours, and the people they encounter tend not to wonder too much about the oddities, maybe because they feel to be part of story, too, or maybe simply because these meetings are not the result of chance but obviously wanted by a fate that wants to fix things.

Overall review.
I liked Norwegian Wood, but not as much as I expected ith all the enthusiastic comments about Murakami I had read. But now with Kafka on the Shore I finally figured out why this author is so loved! With this book I was convinced and conquered! In addition, I found the confirmation that Murakami really like Greek tragedies, and being I a fan too, this obviously made me even happier!

Book Info

Title: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Murakami Haruki (official site)
Original title: 海辺のカフカ (Umibe no Kafuka)
Italian title: Kafka sulla spiaggia
First publication date: 2002
Publisher: Einaudi
Italian translation: Giorgio Amitrano
Pages: 514

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