Book Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

This review is part of book swap project. Thanks IndraTania for the book.


  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Author Haruki Murakami
  • Originally published: 2002
  • Author: Haruki Murakami
  • Cover design: Left: John Gall, Right: Chip Kidd
  • Characters: Kafka Tamura, Miss Saeki, Satoru Nakata, Oshima, Hoshino
  • Genres: Novel, Fiction, Speculative fiction, Magical Realism

General Summary:

Kafka on the Shore, a chef d’oeuvre of magic realism, is charged by two exceptional characters: a 15 year old teenager, Kafka Tamura (we never know his real name), who runs away from home trying to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to fill his emptiness and search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Satoru Nakata (simply called Nakata), who never recovered from an accident that happened during his childhood.

Along the story, Nakata is drawn towards Kafka, for reasons he cannot comprehend. Kafka and Nakata’s journey, a mystery to them and to the readers, enriched by supernatural mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Henri Bergson-quoting prostitute (“The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring in the future. In truth, all sensation is already a memory”), a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish fall from the sky. Apparently, the story also consist of a brutal murder, the identity of the victim and perpetrator shrouded in obscurity. In the end, we are left with answers which for me , like every good story-telling, leaves the reader with blank pages to fill with after we read. The destiny of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, though they never meet each other physically.


Murakami is special in a way that he creates this web of feelings tied to the environment of each character. We don’t always have answers of full understanding of his metaphors. But there is a sense of contemplativeness you get with the events he constructs. Sometimes it leaves you flowing in the space between his story, the sense is strong. Opening a Murakami is always like diving into the deep sea, when you emerge to the surface, you felt like you just had a magical experience, as if into a trance…often not sure yourself of everything you’ve just read. A master of story-telling, a rare artist who paints with words, who leaves us dreaming and spell-bounded.

Relatable Quotes:

  • “Even chance meetings are the result of karma.” …. “That things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.”


  • “You’re really smart, aren’t you, Mimi?” Nakata said, impressed by the Siamese’s eloquence. “No, not really,” Mimi replied, narrowing her eyes in embarrassment. “I just spend too much time lying in front of the TV and this is what happens–my head gets full of worthless facts. Do you ever watch TV, Mr. Nakata?”


  • “There’s a void inside me, a blank that’s slowly expanding. I’m totally lost, my identity dying. There’s no direction where I am, no sky, no ground. I think of Miss Saeki, of Sakura, of Oshima. But I’m light years away from them. It’s like I’m looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars, and no matter how far I stretch out my hand, I can’t touch them. I’m all alone in the middle of a dim maze. Listen to the wind, Oshima told me. I listen, but no wind’s blowing. Even the boy named Crow has vanished.”


  • “Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s just a natural feeling.”


  • “Speaking of contradictions,” Oshima suddenly said, “when I first met you I felt a kind of contradiction in you. You’re seeking something, but at the same time running away for all you’re worth.” …. ‘What is it I’m seeking?”


  • Hoshino was drawn back to his childhood. He used to go to the river everyday to catch fish. Nothing to worry about back then, he reminisced. Just live each day as it came. As long as I was alive, I was something. That was just how it was. But somewhere along the line it all changed. Living turned me into nothing. 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. And I bet the longer I live, the emptier, the more worthless, I’ll become. Something;’s wrong with this picture. Life isn’t supposed to turn out like this! Isn’t it possible to shift direction, to change where I’m headed?


  • Miss Saeki to Kafka: “If the flow is there, I figured I’d just let it carry me along where it wanted” Kafka to Miss Saeki: “I think you’re trying to make up for lost time.” She thinks about it for a while. “You may be right,” she says. “But how do you know that?” ….. “A lot of things were stolen from my childhood. Lots of important things. And now I have to get them back.” “In order to keep living” I nod. “I have to. People need a place they can go back to. There’s still time to make it, I think. For me, and for you.”


  • “Lift the burden from my shoulders and live–not caught up in someone else’s schemes, but as me. That’s what I really want.”