History: Published in 2002, and translated into English in 2005.
Plot: The odd chapters tell the 15 year old Kafka's story as he runs away from his father's house to escape an Oedipal curse and to embark upon a quest to find his mother and sister. After a series of adventures, he finds shelter in a quiet, private library in Takamatsu, run by the distant and aloof Miss Saeki and the androgynous Oshima. There he spends his days reading the unabridged Richard Francis Burton translation of A Thousand and One Nights and the collected works of Natsume Sōseki until the police begin inquiring after him in connection with a brutal murder.
The even chapters tell Nakata's story. Due to his uncanny abilities, he has found part-time work in his old age as a finder of lost cats (a clear reference to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). The case of one particular lost cat puts him on a path that ultimately takes him far away from his home, ending up on the road for the first time in his life. He befriends a truck-driver named Hoshino. Hoshino takes him on as a passenger in his truck and soon becomes very attached to the old man.
Nakata and Kafka are on a collision course throughout the novel, but their convergence takes place as much on a metaphysical plane as it does in reality and, in fact, that can be said of the novel itself. Due to the Oedipal theme running through much of the novel, Kafka on the Shore has been called a modern Greek tragedy.
Review: Reading Murakami is like going into therapy. Murakami sends me deep into myself, where I examine those feelings and forces that churn and charge forward, driving me to express my true self and to take control of my own life. The images and dreams can seem familiar and identifiable to others, but they are also full of personal meaning. I loved this novel, there are mental puzzles and verbal delights galore. As with some of the other books, I had the feeling that I was becoming more fully myself while I followed the developing situation. Much of the novel exists between two worlds, which resonated deeply with me
Opening Line: “So you’re all set for money then,” the boy named Crow asks in his characteristic sluggish voice.”
Closing Line: “Eventually you fall asleep, and when you wake up, it’s true, you are part of a brand new world.”
Quotes: “But what disgusts me even more are people who have no imagination. The kind T.S. Elliot calls “hollow men”, people who fill up lack of imagination with heartless bits of straw, not even aware of what they’re doing. Callous people, who throw a lot of empty words at you, try to force you to do what you don’t want to.”
“Intolerant narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change form and continue to thrive. They’re a lost cause.”
“The Earth slowly keeps on turning. But beyond any of those details of the real, there are dreams. And everyone’s living in them.”