Kafka on the Shore, written by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, is not your typical book. On the surface, it is about 15-year-old Kafka Tamura who runs away from his home to live in a library. Any teenager would be interested in a fantasy like that right?
As Kafka makes his way through the events of the book, he meets an ensemble of characters from whom he develops his views on the world and life itself. Throughout his time at the library, Kafka meets people like the mystifying Miss Saeki, the empty-headed yet not so dumb Nakata, and the bookish Oshima, who all play important roles in Kafka’s journey. Furthermore, Murakami pulls structure from the concept of magic realism, as supernatural events such as cultural icons manifesting in dark alleyways or fish falling from the sky become “just another part of the day.”
However, when reading between the lines, the book becomes so much more. The barrier between reality and fantasy starts to merge, and you find yourself mulling over metaphysical concepts and the state of human motivations and emotions. Haruki Murakami’s skill in creating an interpretive story over the course of 615 pages, yields a world of sorrow and fulfillment, clarity and obscurity, revealing a riddle he wants the reader to solve from the depths of his or her own mind.
Additionally, Murakami has characters discuss music from famous composers such as Schubert or Beethoven, thus broadening their mental capacity and changing the way they relate to the world. He uses these auditory cues in a visual text to produce beautiful themes that I, personally, did not think could mix together.
Even so, the book may not be for everyone. Much of Kafka on the Shore’s plot and concrete events are left up for interpretation, which can cause frustration for readers who are unable to come to a conclusion about the course of events. For others, especially those younger in age, the overtly sexual scenes may be too disturbing or mature.
In conclusion, Kafka on the Shore is a phenomenal book that will most definitely appeal to readers who find pleasure in mulling over abstract concepts and conceptualizing interpretations.