Thursday, April 23, 2015

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

I've realized that I've got a poor track record as far as blogging about the audiobooks I read and my goal is to do better. I listened to seven audiobooks in April, the most recent being Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami [Naxos: 19 hrs].

The two main characters are 15-year-old Kafka (narrated by Oliver Le Sueur) and Nakata, a simple-minded old man who can talk to cats (narrated by Sean Barrett).

Miss Saeki, a former singer, is the enigmatic manager of a private library. Her name is pronounced in two different ways by the audiobook narrators. Barrett: Sah-eh-ki. Le Sueur: Psyche. I don't know which is closer to correct Japanese pronunciation, but I know which one I found more fitting. One of the other characters is Oshima, a transgender librarian, whom I wish had a greater role in the story.

There was a third audiobook narrator who performed the voice of a female teacher, but I couldn't find her name listed anywhere. I downloaded the e-audiobook from OverDrive and it had no publication credits at the beginning or at the end of the recording, which is something I've never encountered before. Searching for more information online, I learned that the translator is Philip Gabriel, who was awarded a PEN/Book of the Month Club Translation Prize for this work.

As I listened, I found myself checking off ingredients common to other books by Murakami that I've read:
  • multiple narratives that come together
  • parallel worlds
  • a central character who feels alienated
  • a ghostly, very beautiful girl
  • music is significant
  • libraries and books
  • lost cats
  • a menacing black dog
  • supernatural entities
  • sex while asleep or dreaming
  • brief episodes of gruesome violence
  • metaphysical musings
When I was about 11 hours into the story, I lost enthusiasm for a while. There's stuff about patricide and sleeping with both his mother and his sister and details about his cock and I needed a break. I switched to a different book for a while, then felt renewed interest in Murakami's use of symbolism and where he was going with this tale. 

I was glad that I finished it, because his work always makes me feel changed. Even so, I liked The Wind-up Bird Chronicles better.

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