Kafka on the Shore (Book Review)

A talking cat, A man looking for the other half of his shadow, and a journey between reality and dreams.


If you are ought to think that all stories have a meaning, well, think again. This novel has broke the usual standards of novels writing. It follows no rules, and it doesn’t adhere to reason. It is a journey to find the meaning of life in an absolute chaos, but do we really find it ?

Kafka on the Shore  (海辺のカフカ Umibe no Kafuka)

Alternative cover
Source : payload.cargocollective.com

A surrealist tale written by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. Translated from Japanese into English by Philip Gabriel. In my opinion Philip Gabriel did a good job with the translation. while reading the English version compared to other versions like that in Arabic, he did a fine job in keeping the Japanese spirit of the novel. What I like is that you don’t find  any loud westernisation in the transformation from Japanese Into English.

It is imaginable that the English version is the original version of the tale so I believe that Philip Gabriel  did a really nice job in translating the novel, knowing how hard is it to translate  from Japanese to English.

The book is divided into alternating chapters, plot-lines that necessarily coincide and cross but without a complete unification.  The novel itself is a piece of Puzzle; a shattered portrait that will make more “sense”  if you collect the pieces together.

Illustrations :

Illustration inspired by Kafka on the Shore
Source: http://krystallauk.com

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you.”  Crow to Kafka( p5)

By these words the author decides to start the story. Statements on fate and destiny, he carved the aisle of the story by determining, from the beginning, that the fate of Kafka is only written by himself, so we know from the start that this trip of destiny is Kafka’s choice. A dialogue between Kafka Tamura, the ” heron ” of this story, and a boy named Crow paved the way to the story to begin.

The names  in this tale hold great meanings and they reflect their roles in the story. Murakami gives his hero a very recognisable name. “Franz Kafka” was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. It looks like Kafka exists in one of his look-like stories. As for Crow, the  age of this character or the type of the relation with Kafka were not specified but he is  older (even if he calls him a Boy in the beginning), and wiser and  he acts as a guid,and  a supervisor etc….

Kafka has decided to run off from home by his 15th birthday. but why this age. Is it an indication that this Kafka is bigger than his age. Does it reflect that our hero is no merely a child who is messing around chasing false illusions. In fact when the author describes Kafka he says he looks older than 15 years old, both physically and mentally, which was an essential element that boosted the entire journey. Questions will be asked during Kafka’s journey such as, Is Sakura, a fellow passenger Kafka meets early in the novel and “rapes” in a dream later on, really his sister?

Did Kafka kill his own father and Nakata is an unconscious proxy? Is the Boy Named Crow, Kafka’s companion,  his superego, or his what? but Murakami never gives the answers.


Image source: 0901.static.prezi.com

The tale  is a slow-ravelling two-strander. The  first strand, Kafka’s story, his escape from his father at the age 15, his questions about his mom and sister that he barely knew, and his journey to a private library on the smallest of Japan’s main islands, Shikoku.

The cross-gender librarian and the enigmatic library owner. The second strand begin with U.S. Army Report in 1946, A  group of school kids experienced a strange condition of Syncope.

However, these kids woke up except for Nakata, who remain in a coma for couple weeks to wake up as he says, “not very bright”, but with the power to talk to cats.

Nakata begin his journey too, a trip with a cat to find the other half of his shadow and to kill a mysterious man with tall hat and leather boots who eats cats. Once you put the puzzle together you will find the organized line of the story.


A cat thinking xD
Source : curiator.com

What makes Murakami’s stories interesting in general is the bohemian touch in his writings however, after reading several novels of his, I noticed that most of his novels sink in fantasia in which it detaches the reader from reality.

Although this is one of Murakami’s strength points, I think he sometimes overuse it. Some reality can be a great addition to a novel. Moreover, I think Murakami kind of exaggerated the chaotic touch in this story.

Sometimes it is disappointing for readers to spend days reading a book and they end up understanding nothing of it. I can also add that the novel retells the Oedipus myth.

One interpretation of the story claims that Kafka kills his father and sleeps with his mother and sister, who abandoned him when he was younger. However I think it is not the center of the tale rather than one of several motifs.


Tunisian Youth is a blog and an online monthly magazine

Latest posts by tunisianyouth (see all)


Tunisian Youth is a blog and an online monthly magazine

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *