okyrhoe's Reviews > Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
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's review
Mar 19, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: bookcrossing, japan, nana

Of the Murakami books I've read till now, this one is probably the most approachable.
Despite all the symbols and metaphors, as well as discussions about the nature of symbols and metaphors, and despite all the supernatural elements, there is a clarity to the plot.
Literary and cultural allusions abound but they are more or less all spelled out in the text itself. The Oedipus trilogy by Sophocles, Freud's theory of the ego, Orpheus in the underworld, the omphalos, Beethoven's Immortal Beloved, Dostoevsky's The Idiot, the shore scene in François Truffault's The 400 Blows, etc. as well as Japanese references such as the work of Ueda Akinari.
The symbolic/supernatural characters of Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders are harder to figure out, but in all probability they are not meant to be understood in any conventional sense, just as the hypothetical first person in mythology to be accosted by the Furies did not know what to make of them.
I enjoyed reading Kafka on the Shore but I found the last quarter of the novel rushed and hastily assembled, compared with the first 3/4 of the book. In the last chapters it seemed the effort was about bringing closure and joining the disparate strands together rather than maintaining the rhythm of the narrative so far. The text lost its distinct feel and pacing, and the reader's tenuous connection with the character of Kafka, so delicately developed over the course of the book, was almost lost in the choppy plot developments squeezed into the last pages of the book.
Another fault I found with the text is the translation. There were too many Americanisms that stood out in a most inelegant way: the quoting of dollar amounts instead of yen, but more glaringly the tendency to repeat anachronistic exclamations such as "Jeez Louise", or "that's all she wrote."

A brief note about crows in Japan

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