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With Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami gives us a novel every bit as ambitious and expansive as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which has been acclaimed both here and around the world for its uncommon ambition and achievement, and whose still-growing popularity suggests that it will be read and admired for decades to come.
This magnificent new novel has a similarly extraordinary scope and the same capacity to amaze, entertain, and bewitch the reader. A tour de force of metaphysical reality, it is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle–yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
Extravagant in its accomplishment, Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’ s truly great storytellers at the height of his powers.
One of The New York Times 10 Best Books, 2005
"Mann, Camus, Borges, Garcia Marquez—an ethereal crowd with which to associate any contemporary writer, and of course amazingly difficult to compare with. But Murakami can stand the heat . . . He has mastered the techniques and perspectives of major 20th Century Western Hemisphere fiction, turned all of it toward the elucidation of the life of his own culture and produced fiction that has the attractive quality of seeming delightfully familiar and yet pleasingly strange at the same time . . . Reading Murakami, a world-class entertainer with a mysterious, metaphysical bent, is a striking experience in consciousness expansion. This new book, as powerful as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and because of the plot design even a bit more accessible, is a fine place to begin exploring Murakami's world, which is our own, with a few major surprises. Which isn't to say that, as with reading any wonderful work of fiction, we don't leave the world behind as we immerse ourselves in it." —Alan Cheuse, The Chicago Tribune
"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers . . . A self lies in pieces and must be put back together; a life that is stalled must be kickstarted and relaunched into the bruising but necessary process of change. Reconciling us to that necessity is something stories have done for humanity since time immemorial. Dreams do it, too. But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves." —Laura Miller, The New York Times Book Review
"Wonderfully quirky and fun . . . Kafka on the Shore combines a coming-of-age story with an almost Tolkein-like saga of questing and redemption." —Felipe Nieves, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"A surprisingly patient, deeply affecting meditation on perfection itself, specifically romantic perfection . . . Murakami, unlike his female lead, never surrenders to gorgeous despair, and instead celebrates life's imperfections, its partial and transient relationships, and its unintended consquences as blessings in disguise." —Jon Zobenica, The Atlantic Monthly
"What a tale! You never know when the cats will talk, the sky will rain sardines or yet another show-stopping character will step forward . . . Like any Murakami novel, Kafka defies both description and the urge to stop reading [and] few have tackled the Oedipal tale with as much wit, verve, and retail success." —Donald Morrison, Time Europe
"An epic work that blends the sprawling designs of Wind-Up Bird with the psychological ruminations of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the emotional sensitivity of Norwegian Wood. It thus presents itself as the most ambitious and lucid account thus far of Murakami's wide-ranging and deftly entwined thematic concerns." —Gideon Lewis-Kraus, San Francisco Chronicle
"A spellbinding literary who-dunnit laced with inventive references to Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Adolf Eichmann, Anton Chekhov, Federico García Lorca, and Led Zeppelin, to name but a few . . . Clearly Murakami has set out to have serious fun, capturing history, myth, hearsay, and the pulse of modern Japanese life in the fish-eye lens of his own protean vision. The result is a thrilling, idiosyncratic epic that is by turns refreshingly ingenious." —Lisa Shea, Elle
"Kafka on the Shore defies time and linearity--fragments of the past run concurrently with the present [and] the actions of one [character] allow for the dreams of the other to come to life. The absurdities in Kafka, in their stark contrast to the characters' central human elements, distill and draw out the emotion and pathos. Time blurs, identities are fractured and reconstructed, cats talk, fish fall from the sky--and what survives is the metaphor." —Sarah Chung, LA Weekly
“Daringly original and compulsively readable . . . Kafka on the Shore is an excellent demonstration of why he’s deservedly famous [for] postmodern fiction that’s actually fun to read . . . A novel that is intellectually profound but feels ‘like an Indiana Jones movie or something,’ as one character aptly notes.” —Steven Moore, The Washington Post Book World
"This book makes for a beguiling and enveloping experience . . . It invites the reader to relax and dream and drift along with the flow of time, [with its] imagery of streams and spring rain, of a river that follows an unexpected path. Kafka on the Shore artfully sets such currents in motion." —Janet Maslin, New York Times
"I never so willingly suspend disbelief as when I enter Murakami's world. Kafka on the Shore has all the familiar elements: a shade of noir mystery, a slice of everyday Stephen King-like horror, an ill-fated love story, a fairy tale, the search for an allegorical correspondence between dream life and the real world--all of it driven by a riveting narrative . . . Murakami's whimsical, inquisitive and generous spirit encompasses all. The novel mimics the workings of memory, capacious and without hierarchy . . . He is a distinctive and influential voice in a new global literature." —Vernon Peterson, The Oregonian
"Kafka on the Shore is Murakami's biggest novel in a decade and the most fun to read . . . [It] can be read like one long middle-of-the-night trumpet solo that noodles far out onto the branch of believability as sound can go. And then, by keeping us distracted, it makes the branch disappear, [for] this is a story about the fuzzy boundary between what happens in our minds and what happens in the real world--and how easily one can pass between the two. Or perhaps this is only true in the works of Haruki Murakami. If so, I can understand why the people keep coming back to them, and back and back and back." —John Freeman, Orlando Sentinel
"Gay and severe, tender and horrifying, with the monstrous confrontations and violent jump-cuts of Kabuki and the introspective tremors of a Salingeresque adolescent . . . He addresses the fantastic and the natural, each with the same mix of gravity and lightness."
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Unlike a lot of contemporary fiction, Kafka on the Shore risks much: it attempts to tap into the same fevered dream-logic as Franz Kafka's novels and stories, but unlike those metaphysical dead-ends, Murakami's narratives offer his characters a way out. (Though never a way back.) . . . [He] understands the ease with which we confuse our inside world with our outside world, our dreams with our waking life. He also understands the dangers . . . the risks of going to 'the other side' and not coming back. So Murakami gives us characters who trace the route for us." —Scott Blackwood, Austin American-Statesman
"Remorselessly compelling [with a] nearly throwaway touch of poetry . . . This book proceeds by cross-cutting, going from one story to another, [and] it's in the cutting and the departures that the element of rhyme or similarity begins to assert itself . . . The casual description of space then turns into a haunted or hallowed place. . . . Is this a real Japan, or is it simply the vision of a great novelist?" —David Thomson, The New York Observer
"[A] fabulous trail through identity, mythology, philosophy, and dreams . . . Murakami's power to imagine is breathtaking and the empathy infusing Kafka on the Shore makes it a responsible book, one that is adult, wise, and forgiving." —Julie Wittes Schlack, Boston Globe
"One of his best . . . Murakami borrows from everyone and everything--Sophocles, horror movies, Japanese comics and movie-of-the-week schmaltz . . . What ties all this together is [his] unflappable, enchanting prose: hip but companionable, it keeps you coming back for more . . . Finishing Kafka on the Shore is like waking from a great dream. Nothing has changed, but everything about the world looks different." —Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
"Kafka on the Shore is a real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender." —John Updike, The New Yorker
"There have been rumours of an epic novel to match The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, perhaps even to improve on it. Now, at last, that book is here . . . [Kafka on the Shore] is Murakami's most addictive fix to date." --Matt Thorner, The Independent (London)
"What a magnificently bewildering achievement Kafka on the Shore is . . . The exuberant storytelling of Murakami in full flight [is] brilliantly conceived, bold in its surreal scope, sexy, and driven by a snappy and often comical plot [as it] delves into the congested inner workings of our selves with characteristic brio." —James Urguhart, The Sunday Independent (London)
"Kafka on the Shore is an ambitious and substantial new novel . . . Murakami’s utter gravity, like Lewis Carroll’s, produces something not only serious but constantly interesting; the bizarre events of the book satisfyingly grounded by a classical, Dickensian technique . . . The plot, wild as it is, doesn’t waste any material, satisfyingly tightening the screw to the end. In short, this is a book which works in the most expert way." —Philip Hensher, The Spectator (London)
"There is a hypnotic, spellbinding quality to Murakami’s through-the-looking-glass Japan, where spirits take on the forms of whisky icons, and omens manifest themselves as hails of fish and leeches . . . Philip Gabriel’s translation is carefully done and Murakami’s prose is all the richer--and pleasantly weirder--for the translator’s fidelity to it." —Tobias Hill, The Times (London)
"With masterly skill and considerable subtlety, Murakami gradually plaits together the experiences and fates of Kafka and Nakata, underscoring their increasingly complex symbolic significance with several dazzling subplots and texts . . . Never has he offered more enticing fare than this enchantingly inventive tale. A masterpiece, entirely Nobel-worthy." —Kirkus
"Murakami [is] a true original, a fearless writer possessed of a wildly uninhibited imagination [that] likes to blur the boundary between the real and the surreal . . . But he also writes touchingly about love, loneliness and friendship, [and] his readers, like his characters, will go just about anywhere Murakami wants them to." —Publishers Weekly
"With all due respect to Toni Morrison, Ian McEwan, Beverly Cleary, Muriel Spark, Günter Grass, J. D. Salinger, Stephen Dixon, Lorrie Moore, Grace Paley, Gore Vidal, Gabriel García Márquez, Rachel Ingalls, Tom Drury, Thomas Pynchon, Eudora Welty, J. P. Donleavy, Milan Kundera, Philip Roth, Naguib Mahfouz, David Foster Wallace, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Don DeLillo, some people my editor cut, Alice Munro, Dale Peck, José Saramago, Edmund White, E. L. Konigsburg, John Updike, W. G. Sebald, Russell Banks, Stephen Millhauser, Kazuo Ishiguro, Amy Bloom, Robert Cormier, Kenzaburo Oe, Francesca Lia Block, Rick Moody, Donald Antrim, Amos Oz, Paul Auster, Cynthia Ozick, Harry Crews, Denis Johnson, Gary Indiana, Howard Norman, Anne Tyler, Jonathan Lethem, J. G. Ballard, Dorothy Allison, Mary Gaitskill, and-of-course-me, Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction." —Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket