Thursday, October 19, 2006

'Kafka on the Shore' by Haruki Murakami

19 October 2006

I first discovered the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami through David Mitchell whose novel 'number9dream' (a favourite of mine) was heavily influenced by Murakami's 'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'. I've just finished reading Murakami's latest novel 'Kafka on the Shore' (translated by Philip Gabriel). Like most of his books it centres on a young protagonist in contemporary Japan (in this case a 15-year old boy running away from home to try to escape an oedipal prohecy) but the modern, urban, commercial setting is gently invaded by hints of surrealism, magical-realism or maybe the spirit-world. There are many explicit and hidden references to popular and classical music as well as elements of Greek tragedy. Two apparently disconnected plots gradually (and satisfyingly) converge with a strong underlying momentum of fate and destiny. I can see why Murakami is seen as a hip, cool writer but I also find him compelling, immensely entertaining and very funny. He creates some wonderfully quirky comic characters - bits of this novel reminded me of Douglas Adams' 'Dirk Gently' novels. I love Murakami's style, playfulness and mystery - even if I'm not sure I always understand him. 'Kafka on the Shore' is 500 pages long but I would have liked 500 more!



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