Kafka on the shore

by Haruki Murakami

A 15-year-old boy, as mature and determined as an adult, and an old man with the naivety and candor of a child, leave the same district of Tokyo and head for Takamatsu, in the south of Japan. The boy, who has chosen to adopt the name Kafka Tamura, is running away from his father, a brilliant and sinister sculptor, and from his prophecy, echoing that of Oedipus. He goes to live in the small library of a faraway city, where he will see a picture painted thirty years earlier: it will be the door that connects him with another world. Another story unfolds in parallel: the aging Nakata, victim as a child of a mysterious incident on a school outing during the war, is fleeing the scene of a shocking crime which he has committed against his will. Abandoning his tranquil and fanciful life, made up of little daily habits and brightened by lively conversations with cats, whose language he understands, he sets off to look for the entrance stone to an alternate reality, where the visible and invisible worlds meet...

Following separate courses that soon overlap, the old man and the boy make their way through the fog of the incomprehensible, avoiding numerous obstacles, each of them on a journey to an unknown destination but one that will represent the fulfilment of his destiny. Various characters interact with the two protagonists: Hoshino, a young truck driver of irresistible charm; Miss Saeki, a fascinating librarian stuck in the memory of a distant past; Oshima, the kind assistant at the library; a splendid prostitute who quotes Hegel while she is having sex; and then the cats, the author’s favorite animal. But the story turns around Kafka, “a spirit loner who wanders along the shore of the absurd.”

Murakami draws on ancient Japanese culture and builds a bridge with the contemporary, without passing through the modern. He does not stop at the local reality of Japan, but delves into the common background of humanity. For this reason he touches all of us.

Kuniaki Ida