Kafka’s Metamorphosis on the Shore

Have you ever read a book that you loved so much? Except there is almost no way to adequately explain. Like if you tried, people might think there’s something wrong with your brain. For me, that’s Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

Mind-bending, for sure.

Fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away to escape his father’s house and an Oedipal prophecy and to search for his long-lost mother and sister. His name isn’t Kafka, by the way. He travels incognito.

Kafka’s story alternates with a man named Nakata. After a childhood accident, this sixtyish-year-old simpleton lives on a government subsidy and communicates with cats, literally.

Add in fish and leeches raining from the sky, Johnnie Walker—collector of cat souls, Colonel Sanders—a seedy pimp, and some graphic sex scenes, and well, that’s Kafka on the Shore. It’s a surreal story within a story within a story, laden with purposeful references to pop culture and literature, music and history. No one is who they seem. Most detail serves a metaphorical purpose. Jewels of wisdom abound.

In my eyes, the novel is a guide to life.

  • Both Kafka and Nakata have companions who appear out of nowhere to help. How many times have you felt an insurmountable problem, only to realize that there is someone willing to help you? I know I have, over and over, and our connections with others are vital to life. Our truest, most intimate connections have the power to transform us. We have the power to choose those connections, or we can live lonely, miserable, dysfunctional lives. It’s that simple.
  • There’s a message here about a “persistent, inward-moving spirit” (329). I think that means that we flourish though self-reflection, knowing ourselves, and confronting our own souls. Yes, you can lie to everyone around you, but you’re only lying to yourself. It’s so easy to spot the faults of others, but what about your own? As much as your friends can help you, ultimately you must rely on yourself and what’s inside you for courage and honesty, motivation and strength. If you can overcome your own fear, bias, and anger, you will be the strongest person in the world.
  • There’s another message about maintaining a “pliant, youthful sort of curiosity” (329). What do you like? What interests you? Are you open to new things, new people, new ideas? Kids are naturally more curious, naturally more accepting of differences, naturally willing to try new things. As we age, we become more stubborn and consequently more stuck in our ways, but a childlike curiosity keeps life interesting. Our first inclination might tell us, I would hate a book like that, by a Japanese author, where absurd things happen. But all the absurdity serves a purpose if you take some time to consider it. As they say, never judge a book by its cover.

In the end, I don’t think it spoils anything to say, Kafka’s metamorphosis is complete, and he has all the tools to bloom and grow. Life teaches us all about transformation when we keep our hearts and minds open. And I don’t know about you, but I’m happy that I’m not my past self.

I admit, this book might not be for everyone, but then again, maybe it is.

2020 Summer School Required Reading

Shout out to my friend Barbara over at ALTAIR 5G Theatre for bestowing upon me the Penable Award. Barbara wanted to know, “What’s your trick to regaining confidence in your life?” And this is it: intimate connections, using what I have inside (my heart, my brain, and my guts), and the childlike curiosity to keep on going because amazing things are still ahead.

(P.S. Barbara, salty, except I do love my wine, and about that song, here you go…)

 

18 thoughts on “Kafka’s Metamorphosis on the Shore

  1. Mou ? Where is my comment ????
    Let me try again : So there!!!! I love you ! I love Kafka – and on top of that, like that, by surprise, a book I’ve never heard of and that I’m going to find in French !

    I would like to have a Sunday morning like that ( but the French girl “doesn’t play with food” !!! we play before or after )

    And for curiosity… yes I have the same one ! Seeing, knowing, listening, learning, eating life – that’s the best thing, I totally agree. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, Crystal, your intelligent description has unleashed curiosity, and with it, intrigue.

    Suddenly, thoughts of putting aside non-fiction for the moment aren’t quite so outlandish.

    After all, far too much in our world to take only half the journeys offered. Perhaps my reading will find me midway through a biography or an oral history, but opened discreetly behind it will be Kafka on the Shore.

    Like

    1. I love memoir and historical fiction myself. I wouldn’t have naturally gravitated toward this book. No one had ever recommended Murakami to me, but I am an instant fan. And we just thought 2020 was crazy. By the way did you know that fish can actually rain from the sky? I did not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did, but thanks only to an old Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon. You know the sort, illustrations featured in our grandparents’ newspapers. Not the television program from our own childhoods, a wheezing Jack Palance hosting.

        Liked by 1 person

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