Friday, January 12, 2018

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. What an experience it has been! My first Murakami and I’ve never read anything quite like it. The storyline twines itself around a 15-year old boy, an adorable old man and his equally adorable companion and an enigmatic lady. All of them are in the process of letting go of something and gaining something else in the process. Now, would I classify the book as fantasy, philosophy or something else? I would not get there. There’s no point trying to jam something as fluid as this within the confined spaces of genre. This book, like I said at the beginning, is an experience. I do not venture out to 'review' this book because that would be doing it injustice. I will only share what it did to me. The beginning was like sitting on a flight, venturing on a holiday to a foreign country for the first time. There are mixed feelings of fear and excitement. As I go deeper into the book, I get into a dreamlike state—a feeling of being led by the hand while sleepwalking. I feel the dream makes sense only to me. It might sound vague and meaningless if I relate it to someone. I see beautiful things, feel beautiful thoughts about belonging, memories, metaphors, books and music. I chuckle at the sweet, innocent moments (Nakata’s“Liter ady” and his understanding of idioms). I cringe at the violence and underage sex but thankfully, it is just a dream and I know these events will end soon. Once again there are gentle emotions that envelope me with warmth. At a point, I know the dream is ending, I don’t want it to. It gets exciting. I don’t exaggerate when I say I feel my hands trembling at the turn of each page. I read some parts twice. I don’t want to miss anything. I hear myself saying aloud, “Oh no…” “Kafka, just go.” “Hoshino, please do something.” “Oh damn, it’s him!” And then, it was all over and I wake up with a sigh, unable to think of anything else for the next few hours. I then thought of the author himself. How fatigued, yet exhilarated he must have felt to give shape to all those thoughts and ideas. I must have been something like childbirth itself. Perhaps all authors go through their own struggles, but I felt it for the first time. It takes a lot of strength, courage and brilliance to be able to put abstract thoughts in words.

Interpreting a beautiful dream is as important as the dream itself. So, I think a large part of the credit must go to the translator for putting words into a wonderful order, without disturbing the original pattern. Just like it happens in the book, someday, I’d like to discuss this book with someone—the hidden meanings, the references, the parts that I didn’t quite grasp, parts that made me feel I’m “…not very bright, dumb”. And mull over “the accident” and “the murder”. Thinking about it, how nice it would be to come across people, including strangers willing to discuss films, music, books and even philosophy with us. Now, that would be a dream-come-true for me.

A few passages from the book that I loved:
About first impressions: “…a shadowy smile playing on her lips whose sense of completeness is indescribable. It reminds me of a small, sunny spot, the special patch of sunlight you find only in some remote, secluded place.”

About books: “When I open them, most of the books have the smell of an earlier time leaking out between the pages - a special odor of the knowledge and emotions that for ages have been calmly resting between the covers.”

About parental pressure: “When they're treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids' hearts are malleable, but once they gel it's hard to get them back the way they were.”

About anger: “Are anger and fear just two aspects of the same spirit?”

About the unsaid: “Putting (the answer) in words will destroy any meaning.”

About memories: “If you remember me, then I don’t care if everybody forgets.”

“Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in a while, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library.”

The book is full of such gems and I couldn't make note of all of them. But I don’t worry because I know I am going to revisit it one day.