"There are no answers in my world, but there is kindness".
February 9, 2005 4:32 PM   Subscribe

"Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing direction. You change direction, but the sandstorm chases you". Murakami Haruki writes about love, earthquakes and -- in his new novel "Kafka on the Shore" -- mackerel raining from the sky. He is so famous in Japan that he was forced to flee the country, and now the rest of the globe (.pdf file) is fast catching on to his singular vision. More inside.
posted by matteo (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
previous excellent MH thread here
posted by matteo at 4:34 PM on February 9, 2005

I read Kafka on the Shore last week while recovering from some dental surgery. It's most excellent. Really weird though, perhaps Murakami's weirdest. Its logic is the logic of greek drama. Deus ex machina and all that jazz.
posted by Kattullus at 5:11 PM on February 9, 2005

Thanks for the links to info on one of my favorite authors (next to Kafka, of course). No comments, as I am busy for the next 100 hours or so, but I will come back and visit them!
posted by kozad at 6:26 PM on February 9, 2005

Haruki is one of my favorite authors - and that based on having only read three of his novels. I love his style, his vision, character. I'm looking forward to spending some time with more of his books.
posted by ashbury at 9:05 PM on February 9, 2005

This is a writer I can empathize with.
posted by troutfishing at 9:10 PM on February 9, 2005

"As a novelist, you could say that I am dreaming while I am awake, and every day I can continue with yesterday’s dream."

Good quote. And a very interesting main link. I've enjoyed reading about a half-dozen of his books, and feeling a closeness to him from this side of the world. Turns out he was born almost exactly four months before me; and (along with our contemporary Benjamin Braddock) we grew up thinking the same way: “Most young people were getting jobs in big companies, becoming company men. I wanted to be individual.”

As a teenager, Murakami had read "all the great authors" – Dostoevsky, Kafka, Flaubert, Dickens, Raymond Chandler. He spent his lunch money on records, and went out on school nights to see Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. He wanted a lifestyle that guaranteed maximum exposure to the warmth of Western books and music.
That's me exactly, too (except for the Flaubert) — I remember skipping lunch in college one time when the bookstore had a sale on old Riverside albums, and buying Art Blakey's Kyoto and Ugetsu.

Haruki just writes a lot better than I do. (And by the way, isn't it Haruki Murakami, not Murakami Haruki?)
posted by LeLiLo at 9:43 PM on February 9, 2005

[cho berigu]
posted by shoepal at 10:03 PM on February 9, 2005

posted by matteo at 11:11 PM on February 9, 2005

lelillo: different name order -- Japanese names consist of a family name, which is then followed by a given name. in the West we do it the other way around
posted by matteo at 11:18 PM on February 9, 2005

The previous MeFi thread on him was how I discovered him in the first place. And probably indirectly led me to ponying up 5 bucks here.

One of the things I love about the couple of books I've read of his so far is this beautiful tone--very surreal, but in a sort of matter-of-fact kind of way. It nails "dreamlike" in a way that a lot of other writers just sort of flail at in comparison.

Granted, as far as I know, maybe that tone's just an artifact of the translation.
posted by Drastic at 12:11 AM on February 10, 2005

Unlike Kattullus, Kafka on the Shore is the first of Murakami's books (out of the eight or nine I've read) that I didn't enjoy very much...

Matteo: except for Hungarians!
posted by misteraitch at 12:21 AM on February 10, 2005

ok, more MH (or HM if you will) links here
posted by matteo at 2:32 AM on February 10, 2005

NPR did a book review on this recently. Thanks matteo.

Hi Trout!!!
posted by nofundy at 7:19 AM on February 10, 2005


I want MatteoFilter.
posted by AspectRatio at 9:02 AM on February 10, 2005

I second that, AspectRatio.
posted by shoepal at 1:44 PM on February 10, 2005

misteraitch: well, as I said, it's very weird. I don't know if I would have been able to accept the internal logic of it if I hadn't spent all too much of my formal education on greek drama. I spent a good fifth of the book resisting it. I don't know whether I can describe it more precisely. But basically I kept going 'no no that's wrong, that's not how fiction is supposed to work'. About a hundred pages in I finally accept it, or rather the logic of it starts making sense (that's about when greek drama gets mentioned for the first time).

I don't know whether he's doing it consciously (though I suspect it, with all the allusions to/discussions about/plot points appropriated from greek drama) but I think he's trying to write a new kind of fiction by going back to the beginning and see if he can trace a new path from there. As someone who isn't me (possibly he himself, though I think it was Jay Rubin) pointed out, he's been moving away from the first person narrative to a third person narrative very very slowly. Sputnik Sweetheart had a narrator who told the story of someone else, and Kafka on the Shore has intertwining narratives, one of which is first person and the other third person.
posted by Kattullus at 1:51 PM on February 10, 2005

Kattullus: I agree that it's weird, and that, in addition to the usual kinds of weirdness one is accustomed to from his other books (the supernatural elements, etc.), Kafka on the Shore feels a different kind of weird. Unlike you, I don't have a grounding in Greek tragedy, so some of that part of it probably went over my head. I'm happy to accept that my shortcomings as a reader may have more to do with why I don't like a particular book than any fault of its author.

In my naïve perception of Greek tragedy, it's the inevitability of the events portrayed that's particularly important: that everyone can see what's about to happen, but is powerless to prevent it. I did get some sense of this from Kafka on the Shore, but only weakly.

What I disliked in particular about the book was what I felt as a false note in Kafka Temura's narrative voice: it seemed to me too much like Murakami was ventriloquizing his middle-aged voice into his adolescent character. Also, a few points in the plot seemed to me awkward and forced, in a way that I couldn't recall from Murakami's other books, such as the scene in the library when Oshima's secret is revealed...
posted by misteraitch at 1:34 AM on February 11, 2005

misteraitch: Yes, I agree with your point about the scene where Oshima's secret is revealed. I got the feeling that this was an allusion to something in Japan. That was the one part of the book I didn't like.

Did you think Kafka wasn't a convincing fifteen-year old? To me he seemed very convincing, and in fact, reminded me of my own fifteen-year old self.

[[[some minor spoilers coming]]]

As to the logic of greek drama that I was talking about, it's, f'rinstance, apparent in the permeability between worlds. Going through a forest to come to the world of the dead. The deus ex machina elements. Stuff like that. As well as the inevitability of it, as you pointed out.
posted by Kattullus at 2:13 PM on February 11, 2005

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