Murakami’s fiction often has elements of a fantasy reality woven into what seems like a realistic plot taking place in contemporary historical time- magical realism at that, combined with pop culture, suspense and humor in a dish. Elements from alternate realities break through and become part of the everyday world in surprising ways, and seem almost normal in their contexts. If you will observe, among the Japanese they had certain peculiarities in terms of themes in art, including that of the contemporary Japanese cartoons that they create. Murakami has sort of been borne to that, based on what I have read in this book.
It is in the likes of the following: Such portals into Lynchian inbetweenworlds; cool-as-Bogart semi-orphaned teenagers who think and have sex more how male middle-aged writers wished they had thought and had sex when they were teenagers than actual flesh-and-blood teenagers tend to; protagonists on quests for lost women; sexually frank assistants; hyperlinks to war-time paranormal experiences; [such as that of Nakata’s experience when he was a child] random citizens who possess a more intimate knowledge of jazz, whiskey, coffee and chamber music than market research in Shinjuku would ever turn up.
(Mitchell 5) The passage is actually a rundown of the fantasy threads in the story. You would then realize as you further read on that these threads are interconnected into a grand design in Kafka on the Shore. More fascinating is that these mystical fantasies took place in contemporary Japan. As the story goes deeper, so does the setting drives down deeper into the woods and remote places in the country. The book has two storylines.
In the first, we have a 15-year-old boy who introduces himself as Kafka Tamura – runs away from his father and proceeds to a journey to find himself, his mother and his sister, both of the latter has left him at a time before he has become conscious enough to retain his memories. Driven by his anger towards his father and his being left alone, a famed sculptor who makes cat bones as flutes, he prepared for the day that he will run away from home as motivated by his alter ego, Crow.
He designed this running away by prepping himself up completely by poring over books at the library, working out to train his body and build his physique and literally detaching himself from others. In his solitude, he met Crow, somebody who is not clearly drawn out whether he is some sort of an alter ego or a metaphysical element entangled in Kafka’s personality. It was on his 15th birthday that he set as the beginning of his rampage outside the city of Tokyo, and for the first time, the character is named by self-baptism as Kafka Tamura.
He lands himself on a private library in Takamatsu and meets enigmatic Miss Saeki, the owner of the library, and Oshima, a 21-year old transgender gay, who then provide him with a job and shelter. In the library, he spends his time poring through books including Richard Francis Burton’s unabridged translation of A Thousand and One Nights and Natsume Soseki’s works. In this reverie of his present life, the police suddenly appears at the doorstep of the private library, searching for him in the light that his father was murdered.
In the second storyline, we are presented with a man named Nakata who is an elderly man that is quite slow in learning things which has probably been brought about by an unknown childhood accident of some sort. The fourth chapter reveals of an unexplainable event that happened way behind the timeline of Kafka, about kids passing out at once in the middle of the woods and going back to normal except for Nakata falling into comma for two weeks.
It was an event when a certain aircraft passes along the hills of Shikoku during the American Occupation period, and they were the kids who happened to glance that UFO-like element right before passing out. Then on, his intellectual abilities vanished and have been replaced by the ability to talk to cats. He became involved in a certain occult and then on, been employed in the job of finding strayed household felines. In the conduct of his job, Kafka’s father coerced him to kill the latter, demanding that he be stabbed to death.
This Kafka’s father is a cat-killer dressed as Johnnie Walker, and became a spirit in the guise of Colonel KFC Sanders. It is in this linked incident that the seemingly stable new lives of our protagonists have been metaphysically connected through their destabilization. With the police on the loose investigating on Kafka, he leaves the sanctuary of the private library and lives in Oshima’s mountain hut. Nakata on the other hand surrenders to the police and his case gets to be dismissed. In a paranormal turn of events, he was lead to join a company truck driver named Hoshino to Takamatsu.
It is this oedipal relationship to his father, that he was led to the realm of Nakata’s life. In the course of the story, you would ask if whether the father’s connection to cats and Nakata are somehow designed? Or is the focus really on Kafka’s father and not Kafka? Is the creation of Nakata and Kafka’s father been designed and the readers have been led to focus on Kafka’s life on purpose? Or is the connection between the first and second strands of the story been braided together by the existence of the cats? This is the way of Murakami’s fantasy. He has created a spectacle of a new reality.
In his line of fantasy, it seemed impossible that the reality can thrive. It provided subtlety for the novel, wherein concepts are need not be expressed in great words, nor great earth quakes of events. In the construction of the plot, there are a lot of mysteries unsolved, which then left the readers another mystery that needs to be solved on their own. Nakata’s childhood accident was not explained, the village where Kafka stayed unknown. In any case, to Kafka’s world, these things are normal. Mysteries are normal and having them explained would mean that their existence is no longer needed in the book.
Actually, the storyline is not chronologically arranged by chapter. The odd chapters belong to Kafka, the even then belongs to the story of Nakata. Kafka, after running away from his father’s house, gets to stay in a secluded library in Takamatsu, with a librarian-owner named Miss Saeki, with whom he forms a weird love affair between young and old. This arrangement has added up to the fantasy and anticipation with which it allows the reader to glide on. It creates a mystery touching void, and leaves awe and excitement to the readers.
The fantasy that he used is now more complicated than the fantasy of that of the older times. The book has seemed to be more of a hallucination. There is no more telling whether Kafka’s dreams are true or not, and there is no telling about is there a relevance between Kafka’s dreams and reality. His dream of raping the girl on the bus who is named Sakura and the relationship that he has developed with his benefactress, Miss Saeki seemed to have so much connection to him that somehow, took off from his oedipal relationship with his father. They could have been his mother and his sister.
It actually poses the question of whether this speculation is true, a paranormally determined situation or just mere coincidence. As what Sakura told him as they separated on the bus: “Even chance meetings are the result of Karma. ” (Murakami, p. 21) This novel reflects much of Murakami’s philosophies, one of which is Shintoism. In this novel, he used the elements of the characters and giving essence to animals such as cats by giving them the gift of speech. In a conversation between Sakura and Kafka, he explains “that things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.
” (Murakami, p. 22) Here is one way that Murakami reveals Shinto beliefs in writing, through making the people in the novel speak about it. This conversation actually happened when Sakura, whom Kafka has thought of as his sister, came in. This conversation provided for a certain form of irony, because in some ways, this last conversation before they parted ways in the bus station bears a weighty significance in their lives. From the beginning to the ending of the story, it is fueled with an air of mysticism, somewhat like making the unreal so real and ordinary in our daily life.
If we would choose to follow the thread of one fantasy element, take for example the accident of Nakata when he was younger, it seemed to have been fused to all the events that happened in the story. That event in the story might have created the predicament that the two main characters of the two different strands of the story fuse into a grander design. In this design, a wisdom that is beyond the normal human mind is established. The journey of Kafka is much of a tale of exploration of philosophies and states of mind, and at the same time, fantasy.
It could teach so much about predestination, the choices that we make in our life and the confusing yet exact mysteries of life. It just wanted to tell us the philosophy that all things are predetermined, and all things are made with each other. Nakata’s life for instance, has been kept safe despite the loss of his higher intelligence. It is fused with the beliefs of the East. The belief in Karma justifies the fusion of the lives of Kafka and Nakata without them being acquainted. In the story, the mysteries are unexplained and remained as mysteries but then, the reader would simply understand that that is the way things are.
Solutions are not found. They are implied and everyone is therefore expected to understand. The awe that fantasy can give should be enough for the readers to come up with their own conclusions which are accurate and correct. With these, the book became Murakami’s tool to let the world gain comprehension of his philosophy in life that nothing real can ever do. But mistakes are part of life, and some things we aren’t meant to understand, I suppose. -Haruki Murakami Works Cited Mitchell, David. 8 January 2005. ‘Kill me or the cat gets it. ’ Guardian. co. uk. 9 May 2009