The second instalment in our BoHouse Book Club series proved to throw up some challenging questions, provoking opinions, and unlikely conclusions, as we sat to discuss ‘Kafka on the Shores’, by Haruki Murakami. With another mad dash to finish the lengthy book in time (the book totals over 600 pages), we promise to ensure that the next few books on the BoHouse Book Club list don’t exceed more than 300 pages. We do appreciate the busy lives our book worms, including ourselves, lead!
So back to the book! A surreal tale to say the least, our readers concluded that both Kafka and Nakata, the two main characters in the book, appear to be polar opposite of one another appearance wise, one being young, the other old, one being intelligent and the other ‘not so intelligent’ (labelled so himself), one with a very self-assured sense of his identity, the other filled with teenage angst. Nevertheless they share a number of things in common – both leave their homes in a bid to escape something – Kafka his father, Nakata the act of murder he committed – and both in turn are on a journey of self-discovery. Our readers furthermore concluded that Kafka and Nakata were in a sense two branches from the same tree – that they could have been the same individual in their youth, but a twist of fate in Nakata’s childhood led to the development of a totally different individual. That were it not for this event, Nakata would have in fact grown into a character resembling Kafka.
Further to the references contained throughout the story of searching for one’s identity, the book club members agreed that ‘Kafka on the Shores’ was essentially a novel about perceptions. From the fish and leech that fall from the sky, to the differing accounts of what happened when Nakata visited Johnnie Walker, to philosophical theories such as that of epistemology and infallibility that question theories of knowledge, Murakami appears to attempt to force his readers on a quest for truth, all the while seemingly throwing up challenges in the way of this mission. Murakami is perhaps simply asking us to question our own assumptions, and in this way he draws us in with the characters, on our own very own journey.
In the end we all agreed that the book was open to interpretation – that each reader could take away from it what he wished and that this was Murakami’s intention all along. From the questions of perception he raises, to the surreal elements of the book added to make you think twice, Murakami created these facets with the sole purpose of turning things on their head, leading you to see things in a different way. Well we sure enjoyed it and rose to the challenge, and the next time we pick up a Murakami novel, we will be more than prepared for a topsy-turvy and fantastical tale!