Haruki Murakami, the award winning Japanese writer is known to twist your mind and transport you to a completely different world with his seemingly eccentric yet deeply metaphysical novels. Kafka on the shore is one of his works that does exactly that and more. With a combination of talking cats, unexplained UFO encounters, ghosts of people still alive and smatterings of sexual innuendo, Kafka almost puts you in a trace where a story that seems like a fairy tale has you wondering if it could actually come true.
Fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away from home after his mysterious father lays an oedipal curse on him. The dark omen consists of him murdering his father and sleeping with his mother and sister. He takes up residence in a small private library in the town of Shikoku, where extraordinary events unfold around him. A parallel story runs throughout the book, where an old man named Satoru Nakata has the ability to speak to cats after an unfathomable childhood accident that left him learning-disabled. His daily existence is simple and uncomplicated; Nakata survives on a ‘Sub city’ provided to him by the government and in addition to this, earns some extra cash and receives perquisites by finding lost cats. The two characters don’t cross paths, but their stories overlap on a symbolic and metaphysical level. While reading the book, you often question whether Nakata and Kafka are two sides of the same person.
Murakami succeeds in creating a story where the characters move through bizarre and unrealistic circumstances; yet treat these situations with nonchalance and at times even a slight indication towards expectancy. Despite the disturbing omen and the strange theme, once you delve deeper into the depths of this mindboggling adventure, you begin to believe in the surreal. The author manages to paint a landscape that consists of raining fish and leeches, but the perfect balance of humour and meaning given to such events is simply delightful.
A warning: If you enjoy stories that are straightforward and reach a solid conclusion, this book is definitely not for you. Take on the challenge of reading it only if you are ready to embark on a crazy adventure that will make you question your beliefs by the time you turn to the last page.