Kafka on the Shore follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at 15, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down. Their parallel odysseys are enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerising dramas. Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghostlike pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle.
Murakami's new novel is at once a classic tale of quest, but it is also a bold exploration of mythic and contemporary taboos, of patricide, of mother-love, of sister-love. Above all it is an entertainment of a very high order.
Haruki Murakami is the David Lynch of literature; everything doesn’t always make sense, but it's so compelling you can't stop listening or trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. Such is the case with Murakami's mind-bending Kafka on the Shore, which follows the lives of 15-year-old Kafka and an old man named Nakata, who might be aspects of the same person...or maybe not. What we do know is that Kafka runs away from home to find his lost mother and sister and winds up living in a library in the seaside town of Takamatsu, where he spends his days reading literature. Then he's suspected of being involved in a murder. In alternating chapters, we also hear the story of Nakata, who makes a living as a "cat whisperer," searching for lost pets. He embarks on a road trip searching for a particularly hard to find cat, traveling far away from his home for the first time, and the narrative suggests he's fated to meet Kafka. But does he? Oh, and there's also truly bizarre appearances by Johnnie Walker and Colonel Sanders.
Oliver Le Sueur as Kafka and Sean Barrett as Nakata both give hypnotic readings of the main and supporting characters. Le Sueur performs double duty for Kafka and the teen's inner voice, Crow, reading with such gravitas that you might find yourself leaning forward a bit with expectancy for the next line of dialogue or intricate detail. Barrett's deep, warm voice is perfectly grandfatherly as Nakata, whose uncertain destination and deep wonder at the world he has never seen is the lynchpin of the novel. Barrett's voice is a national treasure in Britain – having voiced Shakespeare, Dickens, and Beckett – and you'll wish he narrated just about every book once you hear how he commits to Nakata.
As Kafka prepares to leave home, his alter ego tells the boy that he's about to enter a metaphysical and symbolic storm. "Once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through – how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure if the storm is over, but one thing is certain – when you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in." That can also be said of any listener who chooses to explore Murakami's beautiful, enigmatic world. Collin Kelley
World Fantasy Award, 2006
"I've never read a novel that I found so compelling because of its narrative inventiveness and love of storytelling....Great entertainment." (Guardian)
"An insistently metaphysical mind-bender." (The New Yorker)
"Daringly original and compulsively readable." (The Washington Post's Book World)
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Fascinating characters, familiar feel yet mystical