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Kafka on the Shore
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(GO)...Japan: Kafka on the Shore > The Boy Named Crow - Chapter 13

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message 1: by Beth Asmaa (last edited Feb 24, 2014 07:09AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments Is Crow the fifteen-year-old's alter-ego? Is Crow's viewpoint parental or wise? It's certainly prompting the boy narrator to think ahead, not to run away heedlessly: "Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions..."

The Crow prologue summarizes the narrator's story to come.
"On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library."
Just as he's said, he stuffs the backpack, selecting essential items, mentions his superior school grades and his withdrawn personality, and his motherless home--justifications to leave. He's nevertheless plagued by the specter of omens, "A dark, omnipresent pool of water" and DNA "A mechanism buried inside of you."

And then, he turns fifteen, heading to the island of Shikoku.

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments Chapters 2-5

This government begins a series of q&a sessions. The first interviews the teacher Setsuko Okamochi about a poison gas incident on November 7, 1944. She and sixteen children went to pick mushrooms and to spend the day out in the hills. All the children suddenly collapsed unconscious, and she ran to get the assistance of the school. The second interviewee is the doctor Juichi Nakazawa of internal medicine, who was part of the children's rescue. The adults decided that the plausible explanation was poison gas from a B-29 airplane. Most of the children awoke without remembering anything untoward except for Satoru Nakata, who remained unconscious.

In the alternating chapters of this novel, the runaway Kafka travels the night of his fifteenth birthday on a bus to Takamatsu. During a rest stop, he meets a girl, who could very well be his lost sister and who carries a small, heavy suitcase.

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments Chapters 5-6

Kafka (=his new, made-up name) and Satoko reach Takamatsu by bus, along the way having talked about K's belief in "karma",
"...things in life are fated by our previous lives...even in the smallest events there's no such thing as coincidence."
He nonetheless senses a sort of freedom in being adrift in a new city.
"I'm free, I remind myself. Like the clouds floating across the sky, I'm all by myself, totally free."
He enjoys the day reading and exploring in an elegant, open-to-the-public, private library, and meeting the library assistant Oshima and the head librarian Miss Saeki before buying dinner and finding lodging. Being alone at his age requires a low profile, so what is the extent of his freedom?
"I'm free, I think. I shut my eyes and think hard and deep about how free I am, but I really can't understand what it means. All I know is I'm totally alone. All alone in an unfamiliar place, like some solitary explorer who's lost his compass and his map. Is this what it means to be free? I don't know, and I give up thinking about it."
He calls his father's house phone, which rings twice.

The next chapter returns to Nakata's predicament. An old man, he is on a governmental "sub city", on account of a mind-draining childhood accident which made his memory on a par with felines. One of them recognizes Nakata's weak shadow, a faintness of which Nakata is also aware.
" should consider how your shadow feels about it. It might have a bit of an inferiority complex--as a shadow, that is. If I were a shadow, I know I wouldn't like to be half of what I should be."
Perhaps, Nakata will seek to find the other half of his shadow.

message 4: by Julie (last edited Sep 10, 2012 09:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Julie (readerjules) Asma wrote: "Is Crow the fifteen-year-old's alter-ego? Is Crow's viewpoint parental or wise? It's certainly prompting the boy narrator to think ahead, not to run away heedlessly: "Sometimes fate is like a small..."

In the intro chapter, I first thought that Crow was a real person but it looks like you are right. The purpose of Crow seems to me to give him courage.

I am enjoying this book quite a bit so far! I like the mysteriousness of it: Why did he run away? Why doesn't he know his sister? What's with the talking cat? And of course the Rice Bowl Hill incident. It will be interesting to see how these things all play out.

message 5: by Beth Asmaa (last edited Sep 10, 2012 10:17AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments Julie wrote: "I am enjoying this book quite a bit so far!... It will be interesting to see how these things all play out. ..."

It's hard to tell what is real in Murakami especially at the beginning. The reviews sometimes give a little help. The character of Crow reminds me of an American Indian tale, as if the underage boy goes out into the wilderness to ready himself for his future actions of manhood. That's only an impression and might have absolutely nothing to do with Murakami's purpose or Kafka's character.

I, too, like the story. I find myself eagerly picking up the book even late at night. I like it because of its airiness. Real life sometimes seems so bound by routine and by solid forms. This story loosens up some of that gravity. Dare I say 'escapist'? I really think that Nakata is an endearing character and am wondering what happens to him in particular. Not much logic in the story at times, but it's fun to follow along with the suspenseful happenings.

Julie (readerjules) Asma wrote: "The character of Crow reminds me of an American Indian tale, as if the underage boy goes out into the wilderness to ready himself for his future actions of manhood. That's only an impression and might have absolutely nothing to do with Murakami's purpose or Kafka's character. ..."

Interesting idea. I can definately see how you'd get that impression.

This is my first Murakami.

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments It certainly is a good introduction to Murakami.

I read some of Murakami's earlier works of which A Wild Sheep Chase was entertaining. That one also had some metaphysical stuff, but the story of Kafka on the Shore is a more extended work with two clear threads and a more mature example of his fiction writing. Yet, there doesn't seem to be anything too difficult about it at all.

Priti | 6 comments Well I finally started on Kafka on the Shore a couple of days ago, and from the very first page the book has been difficult to get away from! This is my first Murakami and I absolutely love his writing style, simple and yet melodious I would say, for want of a better word. I'd had this book for so long on my TBR list and I would like to thank this group for motivating me to read it. Will talk some more about it, later. :)

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments I definitely agree, Priti. For me, reading "Kafka on the Shore" is like riding inside a balloon, drifting somewhere. About your word choice of "melodious", Murakami cites the titles of many musical songs of every description. I think that in this story Miss Saeki too composes a song with lyrics, which Kafka listens to on an LP. Back to reading.

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments Chapters 7-8

Kafka reaches the larger city of Takamatsu, grateful that adults aren't questioning his daytime presence outside of school. He figures out that the best, inconspicuous places are the library and gym, and that his freedom and survival might necessitate rule-bending.

Nakata's thread in the next chapter reports on the progress of the investigation into the 1944 Rice Bowl HilI incident. There had previously been recorded random, similar incidences with school students and teachers even back to the late-nineteenth century in various countries. According to the investigation of possible causes of sudden unconsciousness, the likeliest is eventually decided to be mass hypnosis. The poison gas theory has holes in it. The hypnosis theory still doesn't explain Nakata's extended coma, which lasts two weeks and which leaves him with a lack of all memory.

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments Chapters 9-10

In chapter 9, Kafka awakes, surrounded by bushes, not knowing where he is and where he has been for the last four hours on the evening of May 28. His sticky, bloodied shirt tells him that whatever happened was not good. He cleans himself up in the washroom and phones Sakura.

That episode contains common motifs with the rest of the novel. There are the miniature or great woods in which something extraordinary happens in a great basin or a flat clearing--the collapsing schoolchildren, Kafka's facing his terrifying fears, a surrealistic community. The clearing is close enough to a sanctuary like a shrine, a cabin, or a school.

The reader and Kafka wonder what had ensued between the time he'd left the hotel to shortly before midnight. Further, the reader is unconvinced of the official explanation of the Rice Bowl Hill incident.

One of the things which I like in this story is Kafka's cat-like, independent attitude, an adolescent older than his years, who realizes
"...nobody's going to come to my rescue. Nobody..."
Other intriguing things are Kafka's "alter ego" and the alternating chapters between Kafka and Nakata, as if their two stories are variations on a theme.

In chapter 10, Nakata "aimlessly" lingers with the neighborhood cats in a vacant lot. Now they are a little suspicious of Nakata on account of a rumored cat catcher in a tall hat and boots. A key phrase here is
"Time wasn't the main issue for him"
because, like Kafka's recent unconsciousness, Nakata falls into deep sleeps and adjusts to the sequential nature of living by his taking note of its signs.

Beth Asmaa (wildbirdmom) | 3296 comments Chapters 11-13.

The seashore, the forest, the city, the private library, the everyday as metaphor, all are a part of this novel. Also, characters reveal their life stories through conversation.

One of Kafka's revelations is the memory of his older, adopted sister's picture photographed at the seashore. He thinks of that girl, whom his mother took away with her, as being Sakura, a new friend he meets on the bus from Tokyo. Similarly, Miss Saeki contemplates a wall painting, titled Kafka at the Shore, Kafka's sitting in a deck chair and gazing toward the sea. Memories those pictures engender make their lives more interesting. Something else I noticed about the story is that a setting or a character's words or action echo something else like it, causing me to wonder whether those places and characters essentially were the same in disguise.

In the next chapter, the teacher who led Nakata and the other students on the outing twenty-eight years ago, comes forward to make a "confession about that day of the "mass coma" and to add her observations about Nakata's personality.

In the next chapter, Oshima and Kafka contrast some of Natsume Sōseki's stories. Then, during a hair-raising road trip to Oshima's mountain cabin deep in the Kochi mountains, Kafka learns more about that unusual person.

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