Murakami's Kafka on the Shore

'Kafka on the Shore' is a remarkable book. It is also one of the few books of Murakami that has a closure- of sorts. Many of his stories do not have a definite end of the type we are used to, in movies and books. It is a little longish, and so I had put off reading it until now.

There are a lot of ways one can interpret the story though. This multi-layered story-telling prowess is one sign of the genius that Murakami is. At one level, it is the tale of a 15 year old runaway boy who goes through a few experiences and grows up. These experiences are not the mundane variety, and involve some gut-wrenching discoveries about himself, his parents, his sister, and a few friends he makes. Finally, he learns to make choices, helped by some well-wishers.

At another level, it is about wars- there are a lot of stinging comments about war (and countries asking their people to wage them) in general, made in passing. They are thought-provoking.

Love and longing, even when there is no hope of its consummation, is also beautifully described, as in the fifteen year old's love for an older woman- an exploration of the Oedipus complex.

The old guy Nakata is a unique character, who does what he has to do, aided by some special gifts like being able to talk to cats, and make fish and other animals rain at will, and a doggedness in pursuing goals that is beyond most humans.

And metaphor. So much is spoken about metaphors, that the story ends up blending reality and surreality into a delicious whole. Fantastic stuff.


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