Murakami abandoned me on the Shore

As long as there’s such a thing as time, everybody’s damaged in the end, changed into something else. It always happens, sooner or later.
– Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)


When you are set to read the work of a new (new for you) author, someone whose work is appreciated and known for its uniqueness not only by the general readers but by the critics as well, your expectations are high; they are ought to be, right? I had expected the same from Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore”, and boy I was disappointed!
More than you, I was surprised on realizing that I didn’t like a book, loved and talked by so many. I, barring once or twice, always like what is admired by the majority. I do not try to find the reasons to not to like a book; never did I dare to do that. But even after insisting myself to like it, I failed to do so. I failed big time.

We love mysteries. We love the riddles where our minds are challenged. We love the puzzles that make us deviate from, what we can call, our mundane thought process. But when such mysteries, riddles and puzzles make you go bonkers, and, to top it all, leave you without providing answers to your failed attempts, how would you feel? Agitated. Frustrated. Cheated. Annoyed.
Such was the ending of KOTS (for me).

Not that I’ve never read (and loved) books with open endings. And neither am I unaware of the fact that mostly, in some way or the other, most of the books (novels) are fated to have their ends wide open. But whatever I read, it provided me a sense of relief, it made me wonder but satiated those curiosities at some point, it made me question the realism of the reality but held justified grounds while doing so; KOTS made me wonder, showered its mysterious magic on me, then showered some more, and kept on showering until I was inundated with it; and then left, leaving this dumbfounded, bewildered, perplexed child behind. Period.

Alright, so that was the ending, but what about the start, the middle? Well, the first quarter of the book looked promising, which eventually elevated my hopes and expectations to another level. The way book is written – moving two different, yet interrelated, stories simultaneously – kept me excited and wanting for more (and thus 2 stars). I was in awe of the book, until I realized, or shall I say dreaded, that I was going to be abandoned in this conspicuous darkness.

Supernatural and magic were in the core of the book. These enticing themes are meant to make you wonder, make you believe in the uncertainties of our life, make you ponder about the entities that human’s eyes are blind to; but when that wonderment and enticement starts to bother you, that’s when the issue starts.

Book has details (and just so you know – I love details. I loved IT by King and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy.) After all, a 500 plus pages long book is expected to have them. But do they play any part in moving the story ahead? Do they play any role in the story? No.
Even if I ignore this, characters, the soul of any story, seemed phony (except that of Nakata) and not right.
Sometimes, there is no other way but one to narrate a scene in its raw form. I understand. Presenting a scene of 50-year old lady, Ms. Saeki, having sex (and that too not just once) with a 15-year old boy, Kafka, wouldn’t have irked me out much if I was given a justified reason for it. Kafka (the protagonist), like a teen boy, has had sexual fantasies, but that was all he had. He had a difficult life, yes, but all I could feel for him was nothing. The way you feel nothing for a stranger, whose story you’re unaware of. Here I knew it but it made me feel nothing.
Oshima, on the other hand, could have been handled much more subtly. His was the character I felt was undertoned and not utilized the way it could have been.

Writing style, I cannot say much for Murakami. As the book is translated and I cannot read (or write or understand) Japanese, the translator of the book, Philip Gabriel, did a fairly good job. Other than few minor hiccups here and there, the writing was fine.

I, perhaps, didn’t have what was needed to like this book. I, perhaps, lacked the broad spectrum of knowledge of themes and imagination one needs to be in possession of before reading this book. Even its author said that this book would reveal itself in layers and will have different interpretation for different readers. But, in the end, the conclusion that I reached at is – I could neither make much out of it (mind you! Not at all calling the book a trash), nor could call reading it a magical journey; it instead was a combination of perplexity and (for some part) adoration.

Weird…People are born in order to live, right? But the longer I’ve lived, the more I’ve lost what’s inside me – and ended up empty.
– Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

Do I recommend reading it? Yes. Sure. If not me, book’s Goodreads ratings vouch for it. It (certainly) has something which I couldn’t decipher. Maybe, you can. And if you do, I welcome you wholeheartedly to demystify it, all of it.

A reread might help me understanding and liking it. But that reread day, for sure, doesn’t lie in near future. If (and when) such day comes, I’d be the owner of the brightest smile.


No credit for the image used.
Copyright © 2018 by Idle Muser. All rights reserved.


11 Comments Add yours

  1. Pariya says:

    I felt the same way after reading South of the Border, West of the Sun; however, I still really enjoy Murakami’s works. I am currently reading 1Q84 and it’s pretty good as of now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      Oh! There are many gray shades to Murakami’s work, I guess. I might also enjoy some other book of his. Do suggest me some that you liked, Pariya. 🙂


  2. oh, You got to read some summaries over web. Every tiny bit in the book is interrelated. Every tiny bit. I am sure if you read a few, you might want to re-read the book again. The story is deep. Than understood.

    And yeah, we do all have liking’s over different genre. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      Sure, Prakash. If you’re insisting this hard, I must have missed something potentially great in the book.
      I will try to do this as soon as possible.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul says:

    When I first read “Kafka on the Shore” I was much younger and I liked it. Later I discovered it was supposed to be a re-telling of the Oedipus story–a fact that I had missed totally. I re-read it years later and came away with the same feelings as yours: disappointment. So far as the sex with the mother figure…it was meaningless–as in the sex scene with the older woman in Norwegian Wood. I totally agree with Shewrites 170 remarks.

    Murakami’s writing for me is uneven. I enjoy one section or a scene and then the story simply falls apart. I had the same reaction to 1Q84, which I was soooo excited about only to be astoundingly disappointed. It ended as KotS…without much of a resolution. A recent work, a few years back, of Murakami’s, The Strange Library, was so bad I had to struggle to get through it. And yet, I keep trying to read his works. Sigh.

    I think the only book that I’ve read of Murakami’s that I liked from beginning to end is “After Dark,” a relatively short work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      It’s been so long, Paul, that I had you around. How have you been? Good to see you.🙂

      As for Murakami’s writing being uneven, I second you on this; how one section is enjoyable but then the story falls apart. It happened in KOTS. Just when I thought, this is where the story is going to get stronger, it fell, got shredded into pieces.
      Plus, when you spend so much time reading a book (his works are long), you want to end up feeling satiated. That definitely cannot be said of KOTS.

      I am not sure when I’m going to re-read this book (Life is long. I might turn to reading it again, someday.) But will google about “After Dark”; as it’s shorter too, even if it ends up disappointing me, regret of spending time on it would be lesser.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Shewrites170 says:

    For the same reason, I read the Norwegian wood by Murakami though I wasn’t disappointed. You may try reading the Norwegian wood, but one red flag, this one also have an elderly woman having sex with a hug half her age or less and it’s disgusting in a way. In addition, so many people die or become emotionally broke that it’s kind of dark over all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      I do not run away from or despise the dark fiction (I, in fact, like them), but if a scene, which is morally disturbing, is added in a story without much deliberation over its impact on the readers, I do not support it. Such scenes are highly disturbing, aren’t they?
      Thanks for the recommendation though. I don’t think I’m going to pick his work up anytime soon, but whenever I will, it is going to be “Norwegian Wood”.🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shewrites170 says:

        Yes they are disturbing are welcome!!

        Liked by 1 person

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