Fiction is the common reality of Haruki Murakami’s novels and Kafka on the Shore (2002) is no exception. Almost in every novel he manages to create an aura of magic in the reality of his characters’ life. His protagonists are calm, quiet, mild, passive but still holds continuous chaos in his dreamlike narration.
The narrative is dual: hypodiegetic (secondary story) related to diegetic (main story). The main story is related to the secondary story which reveals the ‘unknown’ parts of the diegetic story. The narrative simultaneously runs forth and back holding the odd number chapters belong to the 15-years-old school boy Kafka Tamura and the even number chapters belong to Nakata an aged World War II victim.
Kafka Tamura, a solitary schoolboy flees from the home to escape his authoritarian father’s oedipal prophecy i.e., he will kill his father and sleep with his mother and sister. On another way his escape is a quest of his mother and sister. Thus, after successions of quest, he finds solace centered to the isolation: physical and mental. However, Kafka’s dreams connect him with the crucial reality of his fate. His three primary dream episodes contribute directly to the fulfillment of the curse in the reality of the novel. According to Murakami this world is a dream. In his interview with The Guardian he claims that some part of it “belong(s) to us… some parts do not belong to yourself”. To Murakami, this is how it varies in personal and collective dichotomy of dream. Kafka started his journey from Tokyo to the southern reason towards. His journey to unknown is a quest of identity: in search of his mother and sister to fulfill his family and past. Since Kafka had no memory of his childhood. In his journey he got a mentor: Crow (may be his alter ego) who was giving direction and inspiring to continue the journey though he claims that one can never get away from the fate. Crow is more like a psychoanalyst. Thus, his “journey to a far-off town” take(s) shelter “in a corner of a small library”.
In another part of metadiegetic level another adventure takes place. A bizarre experience turns Satoru Nakata an imbecile. He lost his memory, power of reading and writing but got something extraordinary power to understand the language of cats.
These two characters are hardly opposite. Whereas, Kafka abandons his familiar to get the unfamiliar, Nakata becomes outsider in the society for his imbecile. Realty is less real to Nakata and he took the shelter in magic realism. Though his position was ambiguous or it’s always something in-between of the reality and magic. Both of them have alternative world within the world. However, their reality is more into dreams and magic. Most importantly both of them had no relativity with their past. Kafka being 15-years-old behaves as an adult but Nakaka behaves as a child in his sixty-years-old though once he was an intelligent child. Moreover, Kafka’s story interconnects Nakata’s by the episode of sleep. Here, the sudden shift of tone and point of view from first-person narrative to omniscient tone violates the chronological order and also disturbs readers’ involvement with the text.
The validity of Kafka’s fatalism ensures by Crow gives reader the hints of accomplishment of Oedipal curse. According to Freud — “the love of mother and the jealous off — as the necessary process a baby experiences in order to his personal recognition”. Kafka had no memory of his mother and sister for what he blames his father. Through escape he denies his dictatorial father and a fear of transgressing the taboo. Though the invincible fatal took place when Nakata kills Jonny Walker, a cat killer and according to the news report, Walker turns out to be Kafka’s Father, Koichi Tamura. Since Nakata and Kafka predictably the same person of two different temporal. To return to the society or to move on Nakata needed to accomplish the murder. Then again, in bus on the way to Takashima Kafka meets Sakura, a female passenger similar to his sister according to his observation. His instinct of sexual desire with his gaze she becomes his object of desire. From which gradually he started recognizing his own self in reflection of her. Here, he recognizes Sakura (Other) as an extension of himself. Therefore, Kafka’s meeting with Ms. Saeki (his mother) the librarian who transforms attractive nineteen-years-old in Kafka’s fantasy (Dream) has sexual intercourse with her. Even, Saeki has the resemblance with Sakura. Paradoxically, Kafka gets his childhood memory back though until then the incest accomplished the prophecy. It also re-constructs his identity since he started relating his mother and sister as a part of himself.
In case of Nakata, he violates the taboo by seeing the menstrual blood resulting of erotic dream of his school teacher: Setsuko Okamochi later who was his ‘surrogate mother’ of him along with other students of the school. This leads him to the certain memory loss as ‘punishment’. Hence, Punishment turns into ‘blessings’: an ability to understand the language of cats’ and he becomes hero to the government. For Kafka there was no punishment to perform the incest as it was Oedipus’ fate in Sophocles. Return to the society and to conform into it and memory of the past was the punishment for him, probably.
In this novel amnesia has a great deal with all of the character: Kafka, Miss Saeki, Sakura, Nakata, Koichi Tamura. All suffers from amnesia, loss of memory and loss of past. Almost all the incidents took place while characters were sleeping/dreaming. Thus, there is no line to distinguish the ‘dream and reality’ in the novel. Through dream characters transgress the taboo and commit incest. Thus, Murakami tries to focus on that there is no escape from the reality.
Murakami is a Kafkaesque writer. To honor Franz Kafka protagonist himself choose the name Kafka and his actual name is never revealed. Kafkaesque surrealism, talking cats, magic, Fish and leeches fall from the sky, dream, non-linear realities all are incorporated in the novel to give a tribute to the writer. Then again “Belittle the self” is a key theme of Franz Kafka’s literary work. Murakami also adopts this in the novel. In the novel we see most of the characters’ lives in isolation beyond memory and where “time is not a factor” unless they come back to the society to conform themselves in the rules is a punishment.
The book won the World Fantasy prize in 2006 and the Franz Kafka Memorial Prize, also in 2006. It’s difficult to understand the bizarre of the book in one single reading. To get different layers of reading one needs to read the book again and again. However, Every time it’ll amaze readers by its magical power also it’ll raise question in minds which are unsolvable. Thus, Japanese publishers set up a website to give the answers of the readers regarding the book. 8,000 questions were posted over the periods of three months. Murakami personally responded to 1,200. Murakami specified that the strategy to understanding the novel lies in reading it more than once:
Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead, several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the kind of novel I set out to write.
Credit : Daily Observer