Sunday, April 16, 2006

As The Crow Flies

Kafka on The Shore
by Haruki Murakami
Vintage, £7.99; pp 505
ISBN 0 099 45832 2

The boy named Crow seems to know the answers to everything, so following his advice Kafka Tamura takes flight on his fifteenth birthday. Everything Kafka has done in his life have lead him to this moment: the moment when he can leave home and run away from his father's oedipal prophecy. However fate, or chance, or destiny, lead him to fulfill the prophecy. When Kafka's father is found murdered, he takes refuge in a private library where he begins to dream. But Kafka is reminded that 'in dreams begin responsibility' and he comes to learn that he is responsible for more than just himself.

Meanwhile Nakata is searching for a missing cat. Left unable to read or write after an incident as a child Nakata's only talent is being able to talk to cats. What began as a simple task becomes complicated and confusing as someone takes advantage of his talent and leads him into a grotesque and violent nightmare. And the only way to put a stop to it will result in murder. Waking up under a bush Nakata discovers that his ability to speak to cats has evaporated and has been replaced with more surreal abilities.

As fish fall out of the sky Nakata and Kafka's lives collide and prophecies and destinies are fulfilled. Each are helped along their way - as any Greek hero would be - by an assortment of strange people; a gender confused librarian, symbols of American culture, truck drivers bunking off work, soldiers living in the woods since World War II, and ghosts of past happiness.

Kafka on the Shore is beautiful, comic, sad and at times baffling: read it and dream. But don't expect to find all the answers at once.

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