Kafka on the Shore by Murakami

I lost patience with Murakami a bit this year after reading the massively disappointing 1Q84. Compelling for about 700 pages 1Q84 suddenly began to read like something that was being made up as it went along and, worse, that the author had lost both inspiration and interest.

Stripped down to its rudiments Kafka on the Shore can be read as an oedipal story. The son is wounded by his mother’s abandonment of him and he blames his father. Covets a murderous hatred towards him. The novel is almost like the boy Kafka under a kind of Jungian/Freudian hypnosis. Dreams or myths become the healing place, archetypes/spirit doubles/art the healers. Kafka will never be able to resolve his identity crisis with his actual parents so he has to recreate them internally. Jung differentiated the ego and the self – ego as consciousness, the entire scope of the psyche as self. So the promptings of Crow can be seen as self battling with Kafka’s limitations as purely ego. Ultimately it’s easy to read Kafka as a kind of celebration of Jungian psychoanalysis. Which for me is where it falls down. Any novel written to verify a theory is going to appear forced at times and Kafka on the Shore, behind all its riddles and imaginative bravado, did often read to me, the story within the story aspect, like an entrenched treatise rather than a free flowing, pathfinding, moving story.

There is of course a lot more going on. Most of Murakami’s familiar themes are present here. The cool teenage boy disenfranchised by his family and frequently engaging in idealised sex. Vulgar consumerism in the form of a character called Johnnie Walker, a serial killer of cats – always emissaries of the spiritual world in Murakami. The ghost lover in the form of Miss Saeki, a woman who has never recovered from the death of her young lover and lives entirely in her memories. The shadowy shifting borders between the waking world and a kind of sorcerer’s dimension with always a guide or conduit that leads from one to the other. The loveable simpleton, in this case Nakata who is a cross between a benign version of the Erinyes in Greek Myth and a fairy godfather. This is another problem, the more you read Murakami, the more his novels blur into one another, the more, in fact, you get the sense that he is always to a large extent writing the same novel. I’ve now got to the point where I wish Murakami would write a very different kind of novel. Perhaps even a straightforward conventional one.

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