What Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore" made me feel

August 11, 2017

Disclaimer: This is not a book review. This is me just rambling about what it was like to read a certain author's work. Grab your favorite snack and drink because this post is a long one. (A book review will be coming up soon in a separate post.)


Haruki Murakami.


AKA, an author that causes me to feel weirdly intimidated and yet excited, at the same time. 


The first time I heard of him was through one of my friends. She is as big of a bookworm as I am actually. Her Instagram feed, one day, blessed me with a shot of Norwegian Wood and her morning coffee. The caption informed me that she was having a great time in Murakami's world.


I was instantly intrigued. I'd never heard of this writer before.


A quick google search told me that Murakami's works dealt with magical realism and were widely acclaimed. I had no clue what "magical realism" meant. As someone who reads a lot of Contemporary YA and High Fantasy books, I wasn't sure this would be my cup of tea.


From the articles I read online, I also came to gather that it could be quite a challenge to read and understand Murakami, especially for a novice. So, after a bit of deliberation, I decided I didn't want to try it out at the time.


This was about two years ago.


Last month, I don't know what happened but, I got quite fascinated with the idea of experimenting with this Japanese writer's books. I really wanted to give it a go. So, I took to Google once more to decide on my first Murakami buy. 


Various websites suggested going for Kafka on the Shore (KOTS), though Norwegian Wood was also a recommended first read. The articles claimed that Murakami's works could turn out to be quite obscure and so, beginners would find the straightforward language of KOTS better to deal with. The plot of Norwegian Wood, on the other hand was highly praised. 


In the end, I decided to go with KOTS. I figured I'd be more likely to stick with it if the book was at least easier to get through. And I'm glad I waited until now to delve into Murakami's world. I honestly believe that my younger self wouldn't have been able to deal with Haruki's eccentricity and would have forever given him up.


I'm going to do a proper book review on Kafka on the Shore in another post. So, here, I'm just gonna talk about what the introduction itself to Murakami was like.


Okay, so on to my actual reading experience. 


I'd like to start by saying that I was baffled. And that's putting it mildly. 


I mean, I knew from the back cover of the book that the plot had some crazy things happening such as talking cats, for one. But I had no idea that it would turn out the way it did. I was completely out of element in my journey through KOTS.


The language is pretty straight forward. So, you'll most likely find it to be an easy read. There are some deep philosophical patches sprinkled here and there. But, trust me when I say that it doesn't detract from the reading experience. it's the story line that will trip you up. More about the plot in my official book review post. So, let's move on. 


The flow of the book is smooth and even though there's quite a helpful serving of "out-there" content in KOTS, Murakami's narrative had me hooked. For the first part of the novel, the plot is almost gripping. You are kept wondering what's going to happen next and so, it's actually quite an easy book to get into.


Those articles on the Internet were certainly right about it being the perfect choice for a Murakami beginner's first read. 


For me, the most difficult part of reading Murakami was that there is no closure. I'm not big on having ambiguous metaphorical endings. So, imagine my utter anguish when, after making my peace with all the bizarre things described in the book, and trying to figure out what it all meant, the ending is surprisingly ordinary. I was left grappling with questions. "But what did it all mean? Somebody please explain!" 


This post has gotten quite long so let's work toward a wrap-up.


Murakami for me was definitely a unique experience. I don't know how to quite describe it but.. while reading KOTS, I was constantly in a state of WTF, like just silently exclaiming to myself that this couldn't be happening.


You'd think I'd have chucked my copy of KOTS through the window by now and swore to never set eyes on another Murakami book again.


But after having finished it, even though it left me in an utter pit of confusion and bafflement, I still want to go back. I want to delve into Norwegian Wood and spend some more time in his worlds.  


I don't quite know what it is that causes the allure so much. But it seems like all the craziness and the abnormality actually serves a point. It may just be why he's made it so big.


I feel like it'll take me several years, maybe even my lifetime, to understand the true meaning of Kafka on the Shore. But, I don't mind. I'll be better prepared next time I'm thumbing through it. Hopefully, even unearth a hidden meaning or two. 


How about you guys? Have you read Murakami? Let me know what you thought!


P.S. I have a slight fascination with Japan and really want to visit some day. This book only furthered that sentiment. In fact, I was so taken up with Japan at one point while reading KOTS, that I started learning Japanese on my phone. :)


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