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Kafka on the Shore

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Best Seller
With Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami gives us a novel every bit as ambitious and expansive as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has been acclaimed both here and around the world for its uncommon ambition and achievement, and whose still-growing popularity suggests that it will be read and admired for decades to come.

This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle–yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.

Extravagant in its accomplishment, Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’ s truly great storytellers at the height of his powers.


One of The New York Times 10 Best Books, 2005

"Mann, Camus, Borges, Garcia Marquez—an ethereal crowd with which to associate any contemporary writer, and of course amazingly difficult to compare with. But Murakami can stand the heat . . . He has mastered the techniques and perspectives of major 20th Century Western Hemisphere fiction, turned all of it toward the elucidation of the life of his own culture and produced fiction that has the attractive quality of seeming delightfully familiar and yet pleasingly strange at the same time . . . Reading Murakami, a world-class entertainer with a mysterious, metaphysical bent, is a striking experience in consciousness expansion. This new book, as powerful as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and because of the plot design even a bit more accessible, is a fine place to begin exploring Murakami's world, which is our own, with a few major surprises. Which isn't to say that, as with reading any wonderful work of fiction, we don't leave the world behind as we immerse ourselves in it." —Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune


"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . A self lies in pieces and must be put back together; a life that is stalled must be kickstarted and relaunched into the bruising but necessary process of change. Reconciling us to that necessity is something stories have done for humanity since time immemorial. Dreams do it, too. But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves." —Laura Miller, The New York Times Book Review


"Wonderfully quirky and fun . . . Kafka on the Shore combines a coming-of-age story with an almost Tolkein-like saga of questing and redemption." —Felipe Nieves, Cleveland Plain Dealer


"A surprisingly patient, deeply affecting meditation on perfection itself, specifically romantic perfection . . . Murakami, unlike his female lead, never surrenders to gorgeous despair, and instead celebrates life's imperfections, its partial and transient relationships, and its unintended consquences as blessings in disguise." —Jon Zobenica, The Atlantic Monthly


"What a tale! You never know when the cats will talk, the sky will rain sardines or yet another show-stopping character will step forward . . . Like any Murakami novel, Kafka defies both description and the urge to stop reading [and] few have tackled the Oedipal tale with as much wit, verve, and retail success." —Donald Morrison, Time Europe


"An epic work that blends the sprawling designs of Wind-Up Bird with the psychological ruminations of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the emotional sensitivity of Norwegian Wood. It thus presents itself as the most ambitious and lucid account thus far of Murakami's wide-ranging and deftly entwined thematic concerns." —Gideon Lewis-Kraus, San Francisco Chronicle


"A spellbinding literary who-dunnit laced with inventive references to Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Adolf Eichmann, Anton Chekhov, Federico García Lorca, and Led Zeppelin, to name but a few . . . Clearly Murakami has set out to have serious fun, capturing history, myth, hearsay, and the pulse of modern Japanese life in the fish-eye lens of his own protean vision. The result is a thrilling, idiosyncratic epic that is by turns refreshingly ingenious." —Lisa Shea, Elle


"Kafka on the Shore defies time and linearity--fragments of the past run concurrently with the present [and] the actions of one [character] allow for the dreams of the other to come to life. The absurdities in Kafka, in their stark contrast to the characters' central human elements, distill and draw out the emotion and pathos. Time blurs, identities are fractured and reconstructed, cats talk, fish fall from the sky--and what survives is the metaphor." —Sarah Chung, LA Weekly


“Daringly original and compulsively readable . . . Kafka on the Shore is an excellent demonstration of why he’s deservedly famous [for] postmodern fiction that’s actually fun to read . . . A novel that is intellectually profound but feels ‘like an Indiana Jones movie or something,’ as one character aptly notes.” —Steven Moore, The Washington Post Book World


"This book makes for a beguiling and enveloping experience . . . It invites the reader to relax and dream and drift along with the flow of time, [with its] imagery of streams and spring rain, of a river that follows an unexpected path. Kafka on the Shore artfully sets such currents in motion." —Janet Maslin, New York Times


"I never so willingly suspend disbelief as when I enter Murakami's world. Kafka on the Shore has all the familiar elements: a shade of noir mystery, a slice of everyday Stephen King-like horror, an ill-fated love story, a fairy tale, the search for an allegorical correspondence between dream life and the real world--all of it driven by a riveting narrative . . . Murakami's whimsical, inquisitive and generous spirit encompasses all. The novel mimics the workings of memory, capacious and without hierarchy . . . He is a distinctive and influential voice in a new global literature." —Vernon Peterson, The Oregonian


"Kafka on the Shore is Murakami's biggest novel in a decade and the most fun to read . . . [It] can be read like one long middle-of-the-night trumpet solo that noodles far out onto the branch of believability as sound can go. And then, by keeping us distracted, it makes the branch disappear, [for] this is a story about the fuzzy boundary between what happens in our minds and what happens in the real world--and how easily one can pass between the two. Or perhaps this is only true in the works of Haruki Murakami. If so, I can understand why the people keep coming back to them, and back and back and back." —John Freeman, Orlando Sentinel


"Gay and severe, tender and horrifying, with the monstrous confrontations and violent jump-cuts of Kabuki and the introspective tremors of a Salingeresque adolescent . . . He addresses the fantastic and the natural, each with the same mix of gravity and lightness."
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review


"Unlike a lot of contemporary fiction, Kafka on the Shore risks much: it attempts to tap into the same fevered dream-logic as Franz Kafka's novels and stories, but unlike those metaphysical dead-ends, Murakami's narratives offer his characters a way out. (Though never a way back.) . . . [He] understands the ease with which we confuse our inside world with our outside world, our dreams with our waking life. He also understands the dangers . . . the risks of going to 'the other side' and not coming back. So Murakami gives us characters who trace the route for us." —Scott Blackwood, Austin American-Statesman


"Remorselessly compelling [with a] nearly throwaway touch of poetry . . . This book proceeds by cross-cutting, going from one story to another, [and] it's in the cutting and the departures that the element of rhyme or similarity begins to assert itself . . . The casual description of space then turns into a haunted or hallowed place. . . . Is this a real Japan, or is it simply the vision of a great novelist?" —David Thomson, The New York Observer


"[A] fabulous trail through identity, mythology, philosophy, and dreams . . . Murakami's power to imagine is breathtaking and the empathy infusing Kafka on the Shore makes it a responsible book, one that is adult, wise, and forgiving." —Julie Wittes Schlack, Boston Globe

"One of his best . . . Murakami borrows from everyone and everything--Sophocles, horror movies, Japanese comics and movie-of-the-week schmaltz . . . What ties all this together is [his] unflappable, enchanting prose: hip but companionable, it keeps you coming back for more . . . Finishing Kafka on the Shore is like waking from a great dream. Nothing has changed, but everything about the world looks different." —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek


"Kafka on the Shore is a real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender." —John Updike, The New Yorker

"There have been rumours of an epic novel to match The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, perhaps even to improve on it. Now, at last, that book is here . . . [Kafka on the Shore] is Murakami's most addictive fix to date." --Matt Thorner, The Independent (London)

"What a magnificently bewildering achievement Kafka on the Shore is . . . The exuberant storytelling of Murakami in full flight [is] brilliantly conceived, bold in its surreal scope, sexy, and driven by a snappy and often comical plot [as it] delves into the congested inner workings of our selves with characteristic brio." —James Urguhart, The Sunday Independent (London)


"Kafka on the Shore is an ambitious and substantial new novel . . . Murakami’s utter gravity, like Lewis Carroll’s, produces something not only serious but constantly interesting; the bizarre events of the book satisfyingly grounded by a classical, Dickensian technique . . . The plot, wild as it is, doesn’t waste any material, satisfyingly tightening the screw to the end. In short, this is a book which works in the most expert way." —Philip Hensher, The Spectator (London)


"There is a hypnotic, spellbinding quality to Murakami’s through-the-looking-glass Japan, where spirits take on the forms of whisky icons, and omens manifest themselves as hails of fish and leeches . . . Philip Gabriel’s translation is carefully done and Murakami’s prose is all the richer--and pleasantly weirder--for the translator’s fidelity to it." —Tobias Hill, The Times (London)


"With masterly skill and considerable subtlety, Murakami gradually plaits together the experiences and fates of Kafka and Nakata, underscoring their increasingly complex symbolic significance with several dazzling subplots and texts . . . Never has he offered more enticing fare than this enchantingly inventive tale. A masterpiece, entirely Nobel-worthy." —Kirkus


"Murakami [is] a true original, a fearless writer possessed of a wildly uninhibited imagination [that] likes to blur the boundary between the real and the surreal . . . But he also writes touchingly about love, loneliness and friendship, [and] his readers, like his characters, will go just about anywhere Murakami wants them to." —Publishers Weekly

"With all due respect to Toni Morrison, Ian McEwan, Beverly Cleary, Muriel Spark, Günter Grass, J. D. Salinger, Stephen Dixon, Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Gore Vidal, Gabriel García Márquez, Rachel Ingalls, Tom Drury, Thomas Pynchon, Eudora Welty, J. P. Donleavy, Milan Kundera, Philip Roth, Naguib Mahfouz, David Foster Wallace, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Don DeLillo, some people my editor cut, Alice Munro, Dale Peck, José Saramago, Edmund White, E. L. Konigsburg, John Updike, W. G. Sebald, Russell Banks, Stephen Millhauser, Kazuo Ishiguro, Amy Bloom, Robert Cormier, Kenzaburo Oe, Francesca Lia Block, Rick Moody, Donald Antrim, Amos Oz, Paul Auster, Cynthia Ozick, Harry Crews, Denis Johnson, Gary Indiana, Howard Norman, Anne Tyler, Jonathan Lethem, J. G. Ballard, Dorothy Allison, Mary Gaitskill, and-of-course-me, Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction." —Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket
© Elena Seibert
HARUKI MURAKAMI was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and one of the most recent of his many international honors is the Cino Del Duca World Prize, whose previous recipients include Jorge Luis Borges, Ismail Kadare, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Joyce Carol Oates. View titles by Haruki Murakami
Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home. I take a small, old gold lighter--I like the design and feel of it--and a folding knife with a really sharp blade. Made to skin deer, it has a five-inch blade and a nice heft. Probably something he bought on one of his trips abroad. I also take a sturdy, bright pocket flashlight out of a drawer. Plus sky blue Revo sunglasses to disguise my age.

I think about taking my father's favorite Sea-Dweller Oyster Rolex. It's a beautiful watch, but something flashy will only attract attention. My cheap plastic Casio watch with an alarm and stopwatch will do just fine, and might actually be more useful. Reluctantly, I return the Rolex to its drawer.

From the back of another drawer I take out a photo of me and my older sister when we were little, the two of us on a beach somewhere with grins plastered across our faces. My sister's looking off to the side so half her face is in shadow and her smile is neatly cut in half. It's like one of those Greek tragedy masks in a textbook that's half one idea and half the opposite. Light and dark. Hope and despair. Laughter and sadness. Trust and loneliness. For my part I'm staring straight ahead, undaunted, at the camera. Nobody else is there at the beach. My sister and I have on swimsuits--hers a red floral-print one-piece, mine some baggy old blue trunks. I'm holding a plastic stick in my hand. White foam is washing over our feet.

Who took this, and where and when, I have no clue. And how could I have looked so happy? And why did my father keep just that one photo? The whole thing is a total mystery. I must have been three, my sister nine. Did we ever really get along that well? I have no memory of ever going to the beach with my family. No memory of going anywhere with them. No matter, though--there is no way I'm going to leave that photo with my father, so I put it in my wallet. I don't have any photos of my mother. My father had thrown them all away.

After giving it some thought I decide to take the cell phone with me. Once he finds out I've taken it, my father will probably get the phone company to cut off service. Still, I toss it into my backpack, along with the adapter. Doesn't add much weight, so why not. When it doesn't work anymore I'll just chuck it.

Just the bare necessities, that's all I need. Choosing which clothes to take is the hardest thing. I'll need a couple sweaters and pairs of underwear. But what about shirts and trousers? Gloves, mufflers, shorts, a coat? There's no end to it. One thing I do know, though. I don't want to wander around some strange place with a huge backpack that screams out, Hey, everybody, check out the runaway! Do that and someone is sure to sit up and take notice. Next thing you know the police will haul me in and I'll be sent straight home. If I don't wind up in some gang first.

Any place cold is definitely out, I decide. Easy enough, just choose the opposite--a warm place. Then I can leave the coat and gloves behind, and get by with half the clothes. I pick out wash-and-wear-type things, the lightest ones I have, fold them neatly, and stuff them in my backpack. I also pack a three-season sleeping bag, the kind that rolls up nice and tight, toilet stuff, a rain poncho, notebook and pen, a Walkman and ten discs--got to have my music--along with a spare rechargeable battery. That's about it. No need for any cooking gear, which is too heavy and takes up too much room, since I can buy food at the local convenience store.

It takes a while but I'm able to subtract a lot of things from my list. I add things, cross them off, then add a whole other bunch and cross them off, too.

My fifteenth birthday is the ideal time to run away from home. Any earlier and it'd be too soon. Any later and I would have missed my chance.

During my first two years in junior high, I'd worked out, training myself for this day. I started practicing judo in the first couple years of grade school, and still went sometimes in junior high. But I didn't join any school teams. Whenever I had the time I'd jog around the school grounds, swim, or go to the local gym. The young trainers there gave me free lessons, showing me the best kind of stretching exercises and how to use the fitness machines to bulk up. They taught me which muscles you use every day and which ones can only be built up with machines, even the correct way to do a bench press. I'm pretty tall to begin with, and with all this exercise I've developed pretty broad shoulders and pecs. Most strangers would take me for seventeen. If I ran away looking my actual age, you can imagine all the problems that would cause.

Other than the trainers at the gym and the housekeeper who comes to our house every other day--and of course the bare minimum required to get by at school--I barely talk to anyone. For a long time my father and I have avoided seeing each other. We live under the same roof, but our schedules are totally different. He spends most of his time in his studio, far away, and I do my best to avoid him.

The school I'm going to is a private junior high for kids who are upper-class, or at least rich. It's the kind of school where, unless you really blow it, you're automatically promoted to the high school on the same campus. All the students dress neatly, have nice straight teeth, and are boring as hell. Naturally I have zero friends. I've built a wall around me, never letting anybody inside and trying not to venture outside myself. Who could like somebody like that? They all keep an eye on me, from a distance. They might hate me, or even be afraid of me, but I'm just glad they didn't bother me. Because I had tons of things to take care of, including spending a lot of my free time devouring books in the school library.

I always paid close attention to what was said in class, though. Just like the boy named Crow suggested.

The facts and techniques or whatever they teach you in class isn't going to be very useful in the real world, that's for sure. Let's face it, teachers are basically a bunch of morons. But you've got to remember this: you're running away from home. You probably won't have any chance to go to school anymore, so like it or not you'd better absorb whatever you can while you've got the chance. Become like a sheet of blotting paper and soak it all in. Later on you can figure out what to keep and what to unload.

I did what he said, like I almost always do. My brain like a sponge, I focused on every word said in class and let it all sink in, figured out what it meant, and committed everything to memory. Thanks to this, I barely had to study outside of class, but always came out near the top on exams.

My muscles were getting hard as steel, even as I grew more withdrawn and quiet. I tried hard to keep my emotions from showing so that no one--classmates and teachers alike--had a clue what I was thinking. Soon I'd be launched into the rough adult world, and I knew I'd have to be tougher than anybody if I wanted to survive.

My eyes in the mirror are cold as a lizard's, my expression fixed and unreadable. I can't remember the last time I laughed or even showed a hint of a smile to other people. Even to myself.

I'm not trying to imply I can keep up this silent, isolated facade all the time. Sometimes the wall I've erected around me comes crumbling down. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes, before I even realize what's going on, there I am--naked and defenseless and totally confused. At times like that I always feel an omen calling out to me, like a dark, omnipresent pool of water.

A dark, omnipresent pool of water.

It was probably always there, hidden away somewhere. But when the time comes it silently rushes out, chilling every cell in your body. You drown in that cruel flood, gasping for breath. You cling to a vent near the ceiling, struggling, but the air you manage to breathe is dry and burns your throat. Water and thirst, cold and heat--these supposedly opposite elements combine to assault you.

The world is a huge space, but the space that will take you in--and it doesn't have to be very big--is nowhere to be found. You seek a voice, but what do you get? Silence. You look for silence, but guess what? All you hear over and over and over is the voice of this omen. And sometimes this prophetic voice pushes a secret switch hidden deep inside your brain.

Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, full to the banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That's it. That's my heart.

Before running away from home I wash my hands and face, trim my nails, swab out my ears, and brush my teeth. I take my time, making sure my whole body's well scrubbed. Being really clean is sometimes the most important thing there is. I gaze carefully at my face in the mirror. Genes I'd gotten from my father and mother--not that I have any recollection of what she looked like--created this face. I can do my best to not let any emotions show, keep my eyes from revealing anything, bulk up my muscles, but there's not much I can do about my looks. I'm stuck with my father's long, thick eyebrows and the deep lines between them. I could probably kill him if I wanted to--I'm sure strong enough--and I can erase my mother from my memory. But there's no way to erase the DNA they passed down to me. If I wanted to drive that away I'd have to get rid of me.

There's an omen contained in that. A mechanism buried inside of me.

A mechanism buried inside of you.

I switch off the light and leave the bathroom. A heavy, damp stillness lies over the house. The whispers of people who don't exist, the breath of the dead. I look around, standing stock-still, and take a deep breath. The clock shows three p.m., the two hands cold and distant. They're pretending to be noncommittal, but I know they're not on my side. It's nearly time for me to say good-bye. I pick up my backpack and slip it over my shoulders. I've carried it any number of times, but now it feels so much heavier.

Shikoku, I decide. That's where I'll go. There's no particular reason it has to be Shikoku, only that studying the map I got the feeling that's where I should head. The more I look at the map--actually every time I study it--the more I feel Shikoku tugging at me. It's far south of Tokyo, separated from the mainland by water, with a warm climate. I've never been there, have no friends or relatives there, so if somebody started looking for me--which I kind of doubt--Shikoku would be the last place they'd think of.

I pick up the ticket I'd reserved at the counter and climb aboard the night bus. This is the cheapest way to get to Takamatsu--just a shade over ninety bucks. Nobody pays me any attention, asks how old I am, or gives me a second look. The bus driver mechanically checks my ticket.

Only a third of the seats are taken. Most passengers are traveling alone, like me, and the bus is strangely silent. It's a long trip to Takamatsu, ten hours according to the schedule, and we'll be arriving early in the morning. But I don't mind. I've got plenty of time. The bus pulls out of the station at eight, and I push my seat back. No sooner do I settle down than my consciousness, like a battery that's lost its charge, starts to fade away, and I fall asleep.

Sometime in the middle of the night a hard rain begins to fall. I wake up every once in a while, part the chintzy curtain at the window, and gaze out at the highway rushing by. Raindrops beat against the glass, blurring streetlights alongside the road that stretch off into the distance at identical intervals like they were set down to measure the earth. A new light rushes up close and in an instant fades off behind us. I check my watch and see it's past midnight. Automatically shoved to the front, my fifteenth birthday makes its appearance.

Hey, happy birthday, the boy named Crow says.

Thanks, I reply.

The omen is still with me, though, like a shadow. I check to make sure the wallaround me is still in place. Then I close the curtain and fall back asleep.

*********

Visit Haruki Murakami's official website to read more from Kafka on the Shore.

www.harukimurakami.com
  • SELECTION | 2006
    ALA Notable Adult Books
  • SELECTION | 2006
    ALA Notable Book
“As powerful as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.... Reading Murakami ... is a striking experience in consciousness expansion.” —The Chicago Tribune

“An insistently metaphysical mind-bender.”
—The New Yorker

“If he has not achieved that status already, Haruki Murakami is on course to becoming the most widely read Japanese writer outside Japan, past or present.”
—The New York Times

About

With Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami gives us a novel every bit as ambitious and expansive as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has been acclaimed both here and around the world for its uncommon ambition and achievement, and whose still-growing popularity suggests that it will be read and admired for decades to come.

This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle–yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.

Extravagant in its accomplishment, Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’ s truly great storytellers at the height of his powers.


One of The New York Times 10 Best Books, 2005

"Mann, Camus, Borges, Garcia Marquez—an ethereal crowd with which to associate any contemporary writer, and of course amazingly difficult to compare with. But Murakami can stand the heat . . . He has mastered the techniques and perspectives of major 20th Century Western Hemisphere fiction, turned all of it toward the elucidation of the life of his own culture and produced fiction that has the attractive quality of seeming delightfully familiar and yet pleasingly strange at the same time . . . Reading Murakami, a world-class entertainer with a mysterious, metaphysical bent, is a striking experience in consciousness expansion. This new book, as powerful as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and because of the plot design even a bit more accessible, is a fine place to begin exploring Murakami's world, which is our own, with a few major surprises. Which isn't to say that, as with reading any wonderful work of fiction, we don't leave the world behind as we immerse ourselves in it." —Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune


"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . A self lies in pieces and must be put back together; a life that is stalled must be kickstarted and relaunched into the bruising but necessary process of change. Reconciling us to that necessity is something stories have done for humanity since time immemorial. Dreams do it, too. But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves." —Laura Miller, The New York Times Book Review


"Wonderfully quirky and fun . . . Kafka on the Shore combines a coming-of-age story with an almost Tolkein-like saga of questing and redemption." —Felipe Nieves, Cleveland Plain Dealer


"A surprisingly patient, deeply affecting meditation on perfection itself, specifically romantic perfection . . . Murakami, unlike his female lead, never surrenders to gorgeous despair, and instead celebrates life's imperfections, its partial and transient relationships, and its unintended consquences as blessings in disguise." —Jon Zobenica, The Atlantic Monthly


"What a tale! You never know when the cats will talk, the sky will rain sardines or yet another show-stopping character will step forward . . . Like any Murakami novel, Kafka defies both description and the urge to stop reading [and] few have tackled the Oedipal tale with as much wit, verve, and retail success." —Donald Morrison, Time Europe


"An epic work that blends the sprawling designs of Wind-Up Bird with the psychological ruminations of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the emotional sensitivity of Norwegian Wood. It thus presents itself as the most ambitious and lucid account thus far of Murakami's wide-ranging and deftly entwined thematic concerns." —Gideon Lewis-Kraus, San Francisco Chronicle


"A spellbinding literary who-dunnit laced with inventive references to Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Adolf Eichmann, Anton Chekhov, Federico García Lorca, and Led Zeppelin, to name but a few . . . Clearly Murakami has set out to have serious fun, capturing history, myth, hearsay, and the pulse of modern Japanese life in the fish-eye lens of his own protean vision. The result is a thrilling, idiosyncratic epic that is by turns refreshingly ingenious." —Lisa Shea, Elle


"Kafka on the Shore defies time and linearity--fragments of the past run concurrently with the present [and] the actions of one [character] allow for the dreams of the other to come to life. The absurdities in Kafka, in their stark contrast to the characters' central human elements, distill and draw out the emotion and pathos. Time blurs, identities are fractured and reconstructed, cats talk, fish fall from the sky--and what survives is the metaphor." —Sarah Chung, LA Weekly


“Daringly original and compulsively readable . . . Kafka on the Shore is an excellent demonstration of why he’s deservedly famous [for] postmodern fiction that’s actually fun to read . . . A novel that is intellectually profound but feels ‘like an Indiana Jones movie or something,’ as one character aptly notes.” —Steven Moore, The Washington Post Book World


"This book makes for a beguiling and enveloping experience . . . It invites the reader to relax and dream and drift along with the flow of time, [with its] imagery of streams and spring rain, of a river that follows an unexpected path. Kafka on the Shore artfully sets such currents in motion." —Janet Maslin, New York Times


"I never so willingly suspend disbelief as when I enter Murakami's world. Kafka on the Shore has all the familiar elements: a shade of noir mystery, a slice of everyday Stephen King-like horror, an ill-fated love story, a fairy tale, the search for an allegorical correspondence between dream life and the real world--all of it driven by a riveting narrative . . . Murakami's whimsical, inquisitive and generous spirit encompasses all. The novel mimics the workings of memory, capacious and without hierarchy . . . He is a distinctive and influential voice in a new global literature." —Vernon Peterson, The Oregonian


"Kafka on the Shore is Murakami's biggest novel in a decade and the most fun to read . . . [It] can be read like one long middle-of-the-night trumpet solo that noodles far out onto the branch of believability as sound can go. And then, by keeping us distracted, it makes the branch disappear, [for] this is a story about the fuzzy boundary between what happens in our minds and what happens in the real world--and how easily one can pass between the two. Or perhaps this is only true in the works of Haruki Murakami. If so, I can understand why the people keep coming back to them, and back and back and back." —John Freeman, Orlando Sentinel


"Gay and severe, tender and horrifying, with the monstrous confrontations and violent jump-cuts of Kabuki and the introspective tremors of a Salingeresque adolescent . . . He addresses the fantastic and the natural, each with the same mix of gravity and lightness."
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review


"Unlike a lot of contemporary fiction, Kafka on the Shore risks much: it attempts to tap into the same fevered dream-logic as Franz Kafka's novels and stories, but unlike those metaphysical dead-ends, Murakami's narratives offer his characters a way out. (Though never a way back.) . . . [He] understands the ease with which we confuse our inside world with our outside world, our dreams with our waking life. He also understands the dangers . . . the risks of going to 'the other side' and not coming back. So Murakami gives us characters who trace the route for us." —Scott Blackwood, Austin American-Statesman


"Remorselessly compelling [with a] nearly throwaway touch of poetry . . . This book proceeds by cross-cutting, going from one story to another, [and] it's in the cutting and the departures that the element of rhyme or similarity begins to assert itself . . . The casual description of space then turns into a haunted or hallowed place. . . . Is this a real Japan, or is it simply the vision of a great novelist?" —David Thomson, The New York Observer


"[A] fabulous trail through identity, mythology, philosophy, and dreams . . . Murakami's power to imagine is breathtaking and the empathy infusing Kafka on the Shore makes it a responsible book, one that is adult, wise, and forgiving." —Julie Wittes Schlack, Boston Globe

"One of his best . . . Murakami borrows from everyone and everything--Sophocles, horror movies, Japanese comics and movie-of-the-week schmaltz . . . What ties all this together is [his] unflappable, enchanting prose: hip but companionable, it keeps you coming back for more . . . Finishing Kafka on the Shore is like waking from a great dream. Nothing has changed, but everything about the world looks different." —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek


"Kafka on the Shore is a real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender." —John Updike, The New Yorker

"There have been rumours of an epic novel to match The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, perhaps even to improve on it. Now, at last, that book is here . . . [Kafka on the Shore] is Murakami's most addictive fix to date." --Matt Thorner, The Independent (London)

"What a magnificently bewildering achievement Kafka on the Shore is . . . The exuberant storytelling of Murakami in full flight [is] brilliantly conceived, bold in its surreal scope, sexy, and driven by a snappy and often comical plot [as it] delves into the congested inner workings of our selves with characteristic brio." —James Urguhart, The Sunday Independent (London)


"Kafka on the Shore is an ambitious and substantial new novel . . . Murakami’s utter gravity, like Lewis Carroll’s, produces something not only serious but constantly interesting; the bizarre events of the book satisfyingly grounded by a classical, Dickensian technique . . . The plot, wild as it is, doesn’t waste any material, satisfyingly tightening the screw to the end. In short, this is a book which works in the most expert way." —Philip Hensher, The Spectator (London)


"There is a hypnotic, spellbinding quality to Murakami’s through-the-looking-glass Japan, where spirits take on the forms of whisky icons, and omens manifest themselves as hails of fish and leeches . . . Philip Gabriel’s translation is carefully done and Murakami’s prose is all the richer--and pleasantly weirder--for the translator’s fidelity to it." —Tobias Hill, The Times (London)


"With masterly skill and considerable subtlety, Murakami gradually plaits together the experiences and fates of Kafka and Nakata, underscoring their increasingly complex symbolic significance with several dazzling subplots and texts . . . Never has he offered more enticing fare than this enchantingly inventive tale. A masterpiece, entirely Nobel-worthy." —Kirkus


"Murakami [is] a true original, a fearless writer possessed of a wildly uninhibited imagination [that] likes to blur the boundary between the real and the surreal . . . But he also writes touchingly about love, loneliness and friendship, [and] his readers, like his characters, will go just about anywhere Murakami wants them to." —Publishers Weekly

"With all due respect to Toni Morrison, Ian McEwan, Beverly Cleary, Muriel Spark, Günter Grass, J. D. Salinger, Stephen Dixon, Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Gore Vidal, Gabriel García Márquez, Rachel Ingalls, Tom Drury, Thomas Pynchon, Eudora Welty, J. P. Donleavy, Milan Kundera, Philip Roth, Naguib Mahfouz, David Foster Wallace, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Don DeLillo, some people my editor cut, Alice Munro, Dale Peck, José Saramago, Edmund White, E. L. Konigsburg, John Updike, W. G. Sebald, Russell Banks, Stephen Millhauser, Kazuo Ishiguro, Amy Bloom, Robert Cormier, Kenzaburo Oe, Francesca Lia Block, Rick Moody, Donald Antrim, Amos Oz, Paul Auster, Cynthia Ozick, Harry Crews, Denis Johnson, Gary Indiana, Howard Norman, Anne Tyler, Jonathan Lethem, J. G. Ballard, Dorothy Allison, Mary Gaitskill, and-of-course-me, Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction." —Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket

Author

© Elena Seibert
HARUKI MURAKAMI was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and one of the most recent of his many international honors is the Cino Del Duca World Prize, whose previous recipients include Jorge Luis Borges, Ismail Kadare, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Joyce Carol Oates. View titles by Haruki Murakami

Excerpt

Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home. I take a small, old gold lighter--I like the design and feel of it--and a folding knife with a really sharp blade. Made to skin deer, it has a five-inch blade and a nice heft. Probably something he bought on one of his trips abroad. I also take a sturdy, bright pocket flashlight out of a drawer. Plus sky blue Revo sunglasses to disguise my age.

I think about taking my father's favorite Sea-Dweller Oyster Rolex. It's a beautiful watch, but something flashy will only attract attention. My cheap plastic Casio watch with an alarm and stopwatch will do just fine, and might actually be more useful. Reluctantly, I return the Rolex to its drawer.

From the back of another drawer I take out a photo of me and my older sister when we were little, the two of us on a beach somewhere with grins plastered across our faces. My sister's looking off to the side so half her face is in shadow and her smile is neatly cut in half. It's like one of those Greek tragedy masks in a textbook that's half one idea and half the opposite. Light and dark. Hope and despair. Laughter and sadness. Trust and loneliness. For my part I'm staring straight ahead, undaunted, at the camera. Nobody else is there at the beach. My sister and I have on swimsuits--hers a red floral-print one-piece, mine some baggy old blue trunks. I'm holding a plastic stick in my hand. White foam is washing over our feet.

Who took this, and where and when, I have no clue. And how could I have looked so happy? And why did my father keep just that one photo? The whole thing is a total mystery. I must have been three, my sister nine. Did we ever really get along that well? I have no memory of ever going to the beach with my family. No memory of going anywhere with them. No matter, though--there is no way I'm going to leave that photo with my father, so I put it in my wallet. I don't have any photos of my mother. My father had thrown them all away.

After giving it some thought I decide to take the cell phone with me. Once he finds out I've taken it, my father will probably get the phone company to cut off service. Still, I toss it into my backpack, along with the adapter. Doesn't add much weight, so why not. When it doesn't work anymore I'll just chuck it.

Just the bare necessities, that's all I need. Choosing which clothes to take is the hardest thing. I'll need a couple sweaters and pairs of underwear. But what about shirts and trousers? Gloves, mufflers, shorts, a coat? There's no end to it. One thing I do know, though. I don't want to wander around some strange place with a huge backpack that screams out, Hey, everybody, check out the runaway! Do that and someone is sure to sit up and take notice. Next thing you know the police will haul me in and I'll be sent straight home. If I don't wind up in some gang first.

Any place cold is definitely out, I decide. Easy enough, just choose the opposite--a warm place. Then I can leave the coat and gloves behind, and get by with half the clothes. I pick out wash-and-wear-type things, the lightest ones I have, fold them neatly, and stuff them in my backpack. I also pack a three-season sleeping bag, the kind that rolls up nice and tight, toilet stuff, a rain poncho, notebook and pen, a Walkman and ten discs--got to have my music--along with a spare rechargeable battery. That's about it. No need for any cooking gear, which is too heavy and takes up too much room, since I can buy food at the local convenience store.

It takes a while but I'm able to subtract a lot of things from my list. I add things, cross them off, then add a whole other bunch and cross them off, too.

My fifteenth birthday is the ideal time to run away from home. Any earlier and it'd be too soon. Any later and I would have missed my chance.

During my first two years in junior high, I'd worked out, training myself for this day. I started practicing judo in the first couple years of grade school, and still went sometimes in junior high. But I didn't join any school teams. Whenever I had the time I'd jog around the school grounds, swim, or go to the local gym. The young trainers there gave me free lessons, showing me the best kind of stretching exercises and how to use the fitness machines to bulk up. They taught me which muscles you use every day and which ones can only be built up with machines, even the correct way to do a bench press. I'm pretty tall to begin with, and with all this exercise I've developed pretty broad shoulders and pecs. Most strangers would take me for seventeen. If I ran away looking my actual age, you can imagine all the problems that would cause.

Other than the trainers at the gym and the housekeeper who comes to our house every other day--and of course the bare minimum required to get by at school--I barely talk to anyone. For a long time my father and I have avoided seeing each other. We live under the same roof, but our schedules are totally different. He spends most of his time in his studio, far away, and I do my best to avoid him.

The school I'm going to is a private junior high for kids who are upper-class, or at least rich. It's the kind of school where, unless you really blow it, you're automatically promoted to the high school on the same campus. All the students dress neatly, have nice straight teeth, and are boring as hell. Naturally I have zero friends. I've built a wall around me, never letting anybody inside and trying not to venture outside myself. Who could like somebody like that? They all keep an eye on me, from a distance. They might hate me, or even be afraid of me, but I'm just glad they didn't bother me. Because I had tons of things to take care of, including spending a lot of my free time devouring books in the school library.

I always paid close attention to what was said in class, though. Just like the boy named Crow suggested.

The facts and techniques or whatever they teach you in class isn't going to be very useful in the real world, that's for sure. Let's face it, teachers are basically a bunch of morons. But you've got to remember this: you're running away from home. You probably won't have any chance to go to school anymore, so like it or not you'd better absorb whatever you can while you've got the chance. Become like a sheet of blotting paper and soak it all in. Later on you can figure out what to keep and what to unload.

I did what he said, like I almost always do. My brain like a sponge, I focused on every word said in class and let it all sink in, figured out what it meant, and committed everything to memory. Thanks to this, I barely had to study outside of class, but always came out near the top on exams.

My muscles were getting hard as steel, even as I grew more withdrawn and quiet. I tried hard to keep my emotions from showing so that no one--classmates and teachers alike--had a clue what I was thinking. Soon I'd be launched into the rough adult world, and I knew I'd have to be tougher than anybody if I wanted to survive.

My eyes in the mirror are cold as a lizard's, my expression fixed and unreadable. I can't remember the last time I laughed or even showed a hint of a smile to other people. Even to myself.

I'm not trying to imply I can keep up this silent, isolated facade all the time. Sometimes the wall I've erected around me comes crumbling down. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes, before I even realize what's going on, there I am--naked and defenseless and totally confused. At times like that I always feel an omen calling out to me, like a dark, omnipresent pool of water.

A dark, omnipresent pool of water.

It was probably always there, hidden away somewhere. But when the time comes it silently rushes out, chilling every cell in your body. You drown in that cruel flood, gasping for breath. You cling to a vent near the ceiling, struggling, but the air you manage to breathe is dry and burns your throat. Water and thirst, cold and heat--these supposedly opposite elements combine to assault you.

The world is a huge space, but the space that will take you in--and it doesn't have to be very big--is nowhere to be found. You seek a voice, but what do you get? Silence. You look for silence, but guess what? All you hear over and over and over is the voice of this omen. And sometimes this prophetic voice pushes a secret switch hidden deep inside your brain.

Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, full to the banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That's it. That's my heart.

Before running away from home I wash my hands and face, trim my nails, swab out my ears, and brush my teeth. I take my time, making sure my whole body's well scrubbed. Being really clean is sometimes the most important thing there is. I gaze carefully at my face in the mirror. Genes I'd gotten from my father and mother--not that I have any recollection of what she looked like--created this face. I can do my best to not let any emotions show, keep my eyes from revealing anything, bulk up my muscles, but there's not much I can do about my looks. I'm stuck with my father's long, thick eyebrows and the deep lines between them. I could probably kill him if I wanted to--I'm sure strong enough--and I can erase my mother from my memory. But there's no way to erase the DNA they passed down to me. If I wanted to drive that away I'd have to get rid of me.

There's an omen contained in that. A mechanism buried inside of me.

A mechanism buried inside of you.

I switch off the light and leave the bathroom. A heavy, damp stillness lies over the house. The whispers of people who don't exist, the breath of the dead. I look around, standing stock-still, and take a deep breath. The clock shows three p.m., the two hands cold and distant. They're pretending to be noncommittal, but I know they're not on my side. It's nearly time for me to say good-bye. I pick up my backpack and slip it over my shoulders. I've carried it any number of times, but now it feels so much heavier.

Shikoku, I decide. That's where I'll go. There's no particular reason it has to be Shikoku, only that studying the map I got the feeling that's where I should head. The more I look at the map--actually every time I study it--the more I feel Shikoku tugging at me. It's far south of Tokyo, separated from the mainland by water, with a warm climate. I've never been there, have no friends or relatives there, so if somebody started looking for me--which I kind of doubt--Shikoku would be the last place they'd think of.

I pick up the ticket I'd reserved at the counter and climb aboard the night bus. This is the cheapest way to get to Takamatsu--just a shade over ninety bucks. Nobody pays me any attention, asks how old I am, or gives me a second look. The bus driver mechanically checks my ticket.

Only a third of the seats are taken. Most passengers are traveling alone, like me, and the bus is strangely silent. It's a long trip to Takamatsu, ten hours according to the schedule, and we'll be arriving early in the morning. But I don't mind. I've got plenty of time. The bus pulls out of the station at eight, and I push my seat back. No sooner do I settle down than my consciousness, like a battery that's lost its charge, starts to fade away, and I fall asleep.

Sometime in the middle of the night a hard rain begins to fall. I wake up every once in a while, part the chintzy curtain at the window, and gaze out at the highway rushing by. Raindrops beat against the glass, blurring streetlights alongside the road that stretch off into the distance at identical intervals like they were set down to measure the earth. A new light rushes up close and in an instant fades off behind us. I check my watch and see it's past midnight. Automatically shoved to the front, my fifteenth birthday makes its appearance.

Hey, happy birthday, the boy named Crow says.

Thanks, I reply.

The omen is still with me, though, like a shadow. I check to make sure the wallaround me is still in place. Then I close the curtain and fall back asleep.

*********

Visit Haruki Murakami's official website to read more from Kafka on the Shore.

www.harukimurakami.com

Awards

  • SELECTION | 2006
    ALA Notable Adult Books
  • SELECTION | 2006
    ALA Notable Book

Praise

“As powerful as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.... Reading Murakami ... is a striking experience in consciousness expansion.” —The Chicago Tribune

“An insistently metaphysical mind-bender.”
—The New Yorker

“If he has not achieved that status already, Haruki Murakami is on course to becoming the most widely read Japanese writer outside Japan, past or present.”
—The New York Times

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