Kafka on the Shore

I am a little afraid of reading Murakami books. They often leave me with the same feelings that the protagonists experience — some mix of resignation and apprehension, and yet that vague pull towards places they don’t want to be, powerless to do anything but to follow along. I don’t like to feel this way, so I don’t really want to read the book, but actually I do want to read it anyway and so I do.


Image via here

I just spent the last 7 hours glued to Kafka on the Shore. 7 hours save for the quick time out to make lunch, after which I slumped back into the comfort of the couch, balancing the plate of rice, vegetables and meat rolls on my tummy. Each hand feeding a different kind of hunger.

I am listening to Beethoven’s Archduke on youtube as I am typing this, inspired by the sudden interest in classical music by the truck driver Hoshino and his intense liking for this song. My mind forms an image of the Komura Memorial Library, that little room with the painting, then the lonely cabin in the woods. And then the melody registers in my mind again and I start to wonder about the countless people living in this world who have spent some real time listening to this classical piece. With wigs and victorian wear and holding a delicate fan, or placing the needle gingerly onto the turntable, or in a car with the radio on. Or sitting in front of a computer with YouTube running in the background. It’s amazing how separate, and yet connected we all are.

Reading Kafka also brings me back to another time when I was reading the Wind-up Bird Chronicles. I had just started my first ever sabbatical then, and there he was, Okada, the same age as me then, having just lost both his job and his wife, who simply vanished. He would sit alone in his house, make his lunch, and feel alienated when he went near a bustling train station as it seemed more like a ghost from his recent yet faraway past.

“But knowing what I don’t want to do doesn’t help me figure out what I do want to do. I could do just about anything if somebody made me. But I don’t have an image of the one thing I really want to do. That’s my problem now. I can’t find the image.”

~ Toru Okada, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

I related deeply to this paragraph then, as I was also at a turning point when I wanted to walk away from all that I knew how to do to make a living. Things are different now, as a series of unexpected turns has brought me to this point of Jun 25, 2014, at an hour nearing 5:30pm when some folks would be leaving their offices, while I sit here writing about Kafka and getting ready to go downstairs and create a new clay pot. What happens next in this story?

Perhaps we can all learn from Nakata, the simple minded guy. In his simplicity, all he can contemplate is the present. Does what has passed really matter? We can’t help but think about the future. But did any bit of speculation or worrying ever came to pass? As far as I can recall, nothing of significance in my life seemed to have happened the way I would have imagined or expected, or prepared for.

Perhaps all we can and should do is to be aware of this very present moment, spend it in a personally rewarding way and be happy. Like how one saves up for a rainy day, we save up happy memories.


3 thoughts on “Kafka on the Shore

  1. I’ve put off reading “Kafka On The Shore” for quite a while. Even received both books of “1Q84” and read those instead. Perhaps I will give it a go soon, if it evokes my memories of reading “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” as it did yours, then it will make me very happy.

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