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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Kafka on the Shore (2002) by Haruki Murakami

Book Review
Kafka on the Shore (2002)
by Haruki Murakami

  I would argue that a good principle for the 1001 Books project is that no single author should have more than 3 titles on the list.   The theory being that no author has more than three great periods, and there is no need for one period to be represented by more than one title.  Presumably, if you read the canonical title representing "Middle Murakami" you can go out and find the non canonical books on your own.   For any author, the first period is either the "first novel" or "early work," typically shorter than the representative of the "middle" or "mature" period, where the works tend to be lengthier, more imaginative, recognized my major literary awards, etc. Finally there is the "late" work, something more experimental, or perhaps a work of non-fiction or a work more personal in nature than the early or middle representative work.

   Under that schema, Kafka on the Shore would be the best representative of "Middle Murakami."  It is not only ambitious in terms of length (650 pages) but it also represents a more in depth explorations of themes both fantastical and mundane from his earlier books.   At the same time, Kafka on the Shore isn't that long- not compared to the 1000+ page 1Q84, which is probably the other strong contestant for the "Middle Murakami" pick.   Murakami's success in translation  has importance for what it tells us about his audience- which has a suspicious resemblance to what heavy users of the internet also appreciate, namely cats, Japanese culture and magical realism.

  When I checked, the paperback edition of Kafka on the Shore was the second top selling product on his Amazon page, behind only the pre-sale for his forth coming book Killing Commendatore.  He's published multiple titles, fiction and non-fiction since Kafka on the Shore was published in Japanese in 2002 (English 2005.) 

   I decided on the Audiobook version- generally speaking, the closer you get to the present, the more likely the major releases have a high quality Audiobook edition, and Kafka on the Shore qualifies.   At 20 hours, it's a hefty commitment, but Murakami's translated prose sounds great read aloud, and nothing is so complicated that you might want to stop and look at the print.   Listening to a Murakami audio book is like hearing someone tell you a story around a campfire. 

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