Review by Shellie for: Kafka on the Shore (audio) ~ by Haruki Murakami (read by Sean Barrett, Oliver Le Sueur and more).
A complex, fantastical novel with philosophical musings and literary tropes discussed throughout. Translated to English from Japanese, it is a novel that has the distinct feel of its country’s setting.
About: There are a a number of story lines in this complex and layered story, with the two primary ones based around Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata. The story starts with fifteen year old Kafka in the process of running away from his home in Tokyo, perhaps due to his emotionally unavailable father or to find his mother and adopted sister, who left when Kafka was little. As a usual sort of intelligent teen with some unusual attributes (he has an imaginary boy named crow who advises him on various issues), he takes his “road trip” to escape.
Then there is Mr. Nakata, a lovely “simple” older man who cannot read but can amazingly speak to cats (and boy are the cats amusing and well done). He has a “Zen” like characteristic to his attitude and also to his speaking quality in the audio version. Although the two men never actually meet, they move inside the story with their own personal quests overlapping frequently - with the intricate connections becoming clear as the story progresses.
Thoughts: Kafka on the Shore has a variety of themes which may intrigue potential readers, as they did me. Some of these are - cats; World War II; philosophical musings; discussions around literature; the use and discussion of literary tropes such as metaphor, allegory and more; and the arts, including music. Murakami addresses gender and feminism in an indirect way. He has also woven in Asian spiritual themes such enlightenment and rebirth, and some interesting imagery regarding body fluids. The strongest thread in the story is its connection with the mythical story of Oedipus, that creates an unusual twist within the book. For a bit about this myth, here is a short definition:
As a Freudian psychological metaphor describing son–father psychosexual competition for possession of mother, the Oedipus complex derives from the 5th-century BC Greek mythological character Oedipus, who unwittingly kills his father, Laius, and marries his mother… (via Wikipedia)
It’s interesting that several of Murakami’s major themes for Kafka on the Shore are metaphor and the myth of Oedipus, and that this shocking complex is also considered a metaphor in its definition above.
I felt that the readers’ voices for the characters where done very well, giving life to the various and well developed characters. I liked that so many of the themes stimulated an intellectual side for me and that better yet I learned a few things. However, I had a conflict – there were too many sexual references and scenes, some were too detailed. Indeed the end of the novel became more about our main protagonist Kafka’s sexual desires and experiences than anything else. Otherwise a very worthy read and well done in this audio version. I give this intriguing audio book 4 stars; more if the sex had been a bit more subtle.
Publication information: Naxos AudioBooks; May 2006; First published in Sept 2002; Unabridged; read by Sean Barrett, Gordon Griffin, Daniel Philpott, Bob Rollett, Oliver Le Sueur, and Georgina Sutton; 19 hours, 6 minutes. Audio Awards: Best Audiobooks-AudioFile; 10 Best Books of 2005-New York Times; Literary Awards: World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2006), PEN Translation Prize (2006).
Haruki Marukami is Japan’s leading literary novelist, who developed a cult reputation with his novel turned movie, recently released in the UK - Norwegian Wood. For an interview see Book Browse’s write up on Haruki Murakami. (Book Browse is one of my favorite sites to go to find information on books, authors and reviews.)
This book was read/listened to in 2011 and will be included in several challenges: The Basics and Haruki Marukami Challenge 2011.
Catching up here slowly, more “read in 2011” reviews coming up. Thanks for reading.