Kafka on The Shore
Haruki Murakami’s Novel Kafka On The Shore; The Place Of Nonhuman Fighters
Nonhuman Interactions and Agents in Kafka on the Shore
As evidenced by several of Murakami’s works, the themes that deal with the metaphysical world are a common and pervasive part of Murakami’s beloved stories. Not one to shy away from heavily dealing with the esoteric mechanisms of the real world, Kafka on the Shore is a novel that epitomizes Murakami’s penchant for the uncanny, as clearly represented by the role in which fate and destiny – examples of nonhuman forces – play in bridging the gap between the novel’s character timelines. The pervasive theme of nonhuman interactions in Kafka on the Shore is heavily implied to be a crucial ingredient in creating the crossroads between each individual characters’ seemingly divergent timelines and how these nonhuman interactions aid in the long-term development, and eventual merging, of the two main characters.
In Kafka on the Shore, Murakami foreshadows the fundamental parallelism between the characters of Kafka Tamura and Satoru Nakata by setting the characters out into journeys that, initially, seem to have originated from incongruous reasonings. In Kafka’s case, he sets out on a personal journey to search for the true identities of his mother and sister as well as to evade the “small sandstorm that keeps changing directions” (Murakami 2) – namely Kafka’s Oedipal curse – that he will inexplicably and ironically relinquish to on his journey to find his missing family. While attempting to evade his fate, Kafka’s alter ego, dubbed as “The boy named Crow,” serves as the primary influential and often apathetic guide for Kafka as he combats the “metaphysical and symbolic storm” brewing within him (Murakami 2). Meanwhile, Satoru Nakata – an old man that has lost a majority of his higher intellectual functions such as his ability to read during World War II – gains the unusual capacity to talk to cats and utilizes this peculiar skill to acquire a job as a “lost cat seeker,” (Murakami 25) becoming highly dependent on this ability to obtain a meager income for himself (Murakami 104). In correlation, a peer-reviewed article, titled On Seeing Human: A Three-Factor Theory of Anthropomorphism from the University of Chicago, provides an explanation as to why these nonhuman interactions are so significant in shaping the thoughts and actions of the two secluded protagonists. In the article, the authors induce that anthropomorphic agents can serve as highly influential instruments in human social interactions, especially in cases of strong social isolation as depicted by the two main characters who are not only detached from their families but also from the surrounding collectivist nature of Japanese society (Epley et. al. 14; Murakami 3-7). The two main characters reliance on metaphysical mechanisms for survival and their association of their respective “nonhuman agent[s]” (Epley et. al 1-2) as objects “worthy of [their moral] respect” (Epley et. al 1) highlights the tremendous impact nonhuman forces have on the formation of the characters’ internal and external motivations thus, leading to the eventual convergence of their timelines.
For Nakata, his ability to converse with cats has given him a method to not only earn some money to purchase what he considers to be luxurious commodities, such as eel, but also to cope with his identity as a pariah amongst his own family, with Nakata being the only member of his family unable to sustain himself without outside assistance. The significance of Nakata’s dependency on his cat-talking abilities is most notably accentuated in one particular interaction with a cat nicknamed “Otsuka” (Murakami 24-28). Within their interaction, Otsuka shows Nakata the relevance of his skill by stating that he is “not so dumb after all” (25) since he can communicate with nonhuman organisms while normal humans cannot (25) thus, allowing Nakata to attain insight above any average human being. Through this dialogue with Otsuka, readers are able to glimpse the immense impact Nakata’s cat-talking ability has had on his rational, further emphasizing the “powerful impact” (Epley et. al 4) nonhuman organisms have between the characters’ timelines and individual development. In addition, the article titled Positive Social Interactions and the Human Body at Work: Linking Organizations and Physiology expands this idea further by exploring the concept of “human physiological systems” (Heaphy & Dutton 1) and the “organizational importance” (1) of immensely receptive individuals, such as Nakata and Kafka, to beneficial social intercommunications (2-3), whether they are nonhuman or not. The article does not necessarily deal with nonhuman interactions but rather the real life implications and significance of physiological mechanisms of positive social interactions, including “nonhuman agent[s]” (Epley et. al 1-2), towards social interactions (Heaphy & Dutton 2-3), juxtaposing the effects of nonhuman objects in the human realm as well as in Kafka on the Shore’s realm. Through the article’s assertions that “positive social interactions” (2-4) have long-term “beneficial physiological effects” (1), nonhuman interactions are further shown to be a large and vital part in not only the characters’ personal growth and collective intercommunication but also in real life social interactions.
In an article from the New Yorker titled “Subconscious Tunnels,” John Updike scrutinizes Murakami’s capacity to intertwine seemingly disparate, and strikingly cryptic, chronologies and themes therefore, further contributing to Murakami’s enigmatic themes and characters within the novel. Furthermore, the author accentuates Murakami’s perception of the “materialist” and “garishly illuminated age” (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”) of contemporary society which is highlighted by the “grotesque figments” (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”) of mainstream representations as illustrated by characters such as the obscure Johnnie Walker and, later on, the flamboyant Colonel Sanders. Updike’s assertion is illustrated by the manner in which Murakami depicts the scenario when Nakata first confronts and then murders Johnnie Walker, describing the whole ordeal in a way that makes it seem as if it was a mere delusion on Nakata’s part as evidenced by Murakami’s characterization of Johnnie Walker: “He was somewhere between young and old, handsome and ugly” (Murakami 68). Nakata’s nonhuman interaction with Johnnie Walker – whether he was imagined or not – serves as a crucial instigator that launches Nakata’s “odyssey” towards a destiny that will soon intertwine with Kafka Tamura’s very own. Moreover, these characters illustrate the ambiguous parameters between the internal and external “darkness” of our world and our individual “souls” (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”) and how these perceptions lead back to an intrinsically linked universal metaphor that Murakami weaves within Kafka on the Shore or, in allusion to Goethe’s words, “[e]verything’s a metaphor” (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”; Murakami 57).
In correlation to Updike’s claim, a scholarly article from Cornell University titled Conceptualizing a Nonnatural Entity: Anthropomorphism in God Concepts discusses the disparity between “nonnatural entities” (Barrett & Keil 219, 237) – such as God – and the “professed theological beliefs and concepts” of university students (219). The authors of the article raises the question of how humanity, particularly followers of monotheistic religions, can characterize a “nonnatural entity” (219) that is “omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal” (220) within “the mind of a limited being like man” (220). The argument of the authors most especially mirrors the actions and beliefs of Kafka Tamura as a young student whose reliance on metaphysical, nonhuman beings raises the question of whether he truly trusts these forces to push him forward on his journey or if he is merely using them as justification for his hasty actions, such as the time when – following the murder of Johnnie Walker – he awakens and discovers himself drenched in blood after running away from home (Murakami 37). Additionally, the authors assert that, by connotating anthropomorphic qualities to an entity whose existence is beyond the human capacity of understanding and “by ignoring the ontological distance” (Barrett & Keil 221) between God and human society, normal humans have developed “anthropomorphic language” in order to grasp the concept of God (221). The concept discussed in this article correlates back to the God-like entities within the novel such as Johnnie Walker who predicted the arrival of Nakata and his rage-fueled murder at the hands of the old man (Murakami 77-80, 90-91), with Murakami heavily implying that Walker is a supernatural entity as demonstrated by Johnnie Walker’s ambiguous statement “[a] person’s got to have an appearance and name, am I right?” (68).
Additionally, Updike exhibits the somewhat arbitrary details of the novel and how these details will eventually converge to depict the “luxuriant, lighthearted, and… undisciplined” nature of Japanese society and culture (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”). Updike also mentions the fact that various spiritualistic religions such as Buddhism and, most especially, Shintoism play a crucial role within Japanese society since the 5th century and how these religions were even used as “powerful spiritual weapon[s]” during Japan’s imperial wars (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”) therefore, it is justifiable the amount in which these religions influence the formation of Murakami’s otherworldly themes and how substantially powerful of a role nonhuman objects play within the characters’ chronologies. In addition, a vital and dominant component of Shintoism, in particular, emphasizes the concept of “kami” (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”) which, as defined by theorist Motoori Norinaga, deals with “anything whatsoever which was out of the ordinary” (Updike, 2005: Norinaga, Motoori), a large component in Murakami’s novels. Updike’s allegations offer a fresh perspective in Murakami’s application of metaphysical forces and the exertion of their influence upon the characters’ timelines in addition to the inevitability of several events that occur in the novel such as the simultaneous – and premeditated – murders of Johnnie Walker and Koichi Tamura. Furthermore, in consideration of the real life impact Shintoism has had on not only Murakami’s novels but also his upbringing, Updike’s assertion that “kami” does not only exist within the realm of “heavenly and earthly forces” (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”) within Kafka on the Shore but also through the combined manifestations of living and nonliving organisms, most notably a “divine,” omnipotent stone that Nakata and Hoshino discover on the latter part of their journey to Shikoku (Murakami 248-250). Thus, Updike concludes that the two main protagonists can only merge and communicate in the metaphysical plane of existence classified by the author as the “realm of kami” (Updike, “Subconscious Tunnels”) with the divine stone serving as a sort of supernatural portal to Kafka’s and Nakata’s generally parallel timelines.
As a result of analyzing various sources, it can be concluded that the characters within Kafka on the Shore are intrinsically linked by nonhuman agents beyond their control and the characters’ respective synergy, enabling the formation of an optimal passageway for the characters’ chronologies to, ultimately, converge. More specifically, the impact of Japanese spirituality and the function of otherworldly religions in their society is distinctly characterized by several characters in Kafka on the Shore, most especially Kafka Tamura and Satoru Nakata, and how their interactions impact the novel’s events overall. Additionally, the characters’ dependence on these metaphysical mechanisms to move their stories further serves as a mirror to the spiritualistic nature of Japanese society and their reliance on the will of the kami to supply fortune and well-being to their families and friends. From talking cats to an omnipotent stone, Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore scrutinizes and delve into the innerworkings of Japanese society and how, eventually, we will all meet in the “realm of [the] kami.”
Analysis of the Translation of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami is an acclaimed writer from Japan and his books are perhaps the most translated from Japanese to English. Loved by everyone around the globe, his book releases are met with crowds of people waiting in line to get a hold of his latest work. Growing up, Murakami identified closely with the works outside of Japan, and rejecting the traditional Japanese ways, he started to appreciate Jazz and Hollywood, which contributed greatly to his works now.
From the inspirations from the western world, Murakami ran a Jazz bar in downtown Tokyo when he was 29. It was then that he first had the urge to write, and he later produced his first ever novel ‘Hear the Wind Sing’, which won him the new writers award.
In his first novel ‘Hear the Wind Sing’, he wrote the first pages in English and later translated them into Japanese just to hear what they sounded like. He is also a translator and translated many other English works, most notably ‘The Great Gatsby’ into Japanese.
Although well versed with the English language, Murakami writes in Japanese, which is later translated by his personal translators into English. He claimed in an interview that he never reads his translated works, the reason being that, reading his work in a different language could be disappointing.
“My books exist in their original Japanese. That’s what’s most important, because that’s how I wrote them.”
Kafka On The Shore
Kafka On The Shore was published in 2002 in Japan, and was later translated to English by Phillip Gabriel. It tells the story of two stranders, Kafka Tamura, and Nakata. Kafka, the first strander runs away from his home and father who kills cats to make flutes out of their souls, and ends up in the home of Mrs Saeki, the owner of a Library. Nakata’s story starts with the recordings of an X-File by Americans who talk about a group of fourth graders who go up into the mountains looking for mushrooms before seeing a UFO, and passing out. They awaken shortly after, except for Nakato, who was in a coma for a few days before waking up, disoriented, but with the ability to talk to cats.
The life of Kafka and Nakato intertwine as Nakato kills Kafka’s father, who he thought was Johnnie Walker. It is a surreal, coming of age novel, with the struggles of all the characters in fighting with their personal demons.
I chose this particular translated book of Murakami’s because it is very different from his other works, a new style of writing. Murakami’s other previous works consisted of adults and their stories. But with Kafka On The Shore, he writes with the language of kids, Kakfa being a fifteen year bright boy, and Nakata, a sixty-ish year old man who never developed mentally beyond that of a child. Philip Gabriel also explained that translating this book was a different kind of task as certain details took days of experimenting and finding the right voice for the characters in English.
Umibi no Kafuka, which translates to Kafka On The Shore was translated by Philip Gabriel, and the English version can definitely sense the presence of the new translator. The problem with translation I find, is that the voice of the author changes quite often than not. In other works of Murakami, Jay Rubin was a major translator and one could quite make out the difference in the ways of translation by the different English writers.
In the original text, the essence of the small village of Japan, the riddles left by the original author and certain words and sentences were so strong that the translation just didn’t seem fit or gave justice to those images and feelings. One thing that makes a big difference is the use of symbolism in the english counterpart, whereas, in the Japanese version, symbolism doesn’t quite seem to fit the part, as in, the spirit was used to explain the separation of human and soul in the translated version, but in the original text, the spirit merely was to show the duality of spirits in human.
The problems with the translation of word plays was also seen, though it was minimal, but word plays are important to understand certain situations. If I were to say ‘Life is a Rollercoaster’ in English but could never translate that perfectly in Ao, my attempts at making people understand life would be futile through that paradox. Likewise, not being able to truly convert that idea into a different language irks a reader. In this way, could Murakami himself be lost in translation? Seeing that the translator, even though he studied the text vigorously, he did, in a way, make the English counterpart his own through his slight change of words. We can, however, see the great affection for the work which Philip Gabriel was translating and he has a feel for language which is honestly enough for the readers to feel Murakami’s presence in the translated works, even though there is nothing like reading a work in its original text. Like Murakami himself said, “If one of those elements is missing the translation won’t be worth much.”
Without the ardent work of translators, Murakami would hardly be known all over like he is now. Although he started writing a long time back, translating his works have helped him gain the recognition he deserves, and English readers can now enjoy his work. Because translation is such a tedious work which needs precision at its finest, we must ensure that we get the best translators. Philip Gabriel has done a fine job at keeping Murakami’s spirit in the novel, even through the small changes that were made along the way, and the readers could go on the journey without feeling like they were going on a whole another path.
Gabriel explained the struggles he faced during the translation process, especially with finding proper translation for word plays, and finding the proper age vocabulary for the characters, since it was a first time for Murakami to write someone who was fifteen rather than his substandard thirty-ish year old protagonists.
To have to translate a book, with the consciousness of all the great books that stands behind, and to set out to write the same concept in a different language with all the changes made, making sure it remains the same, re-explaining everything is not such an easy feat.
Crow As A Guidance In Kafka On The Shore By Haruki Murakami
In the novel, Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, the protagonist Kafka Tamura, a fifteen-year-old Japanese, runs away from home intending to escape his father’s curse, which is that he will sleep with his sister and mather, then kill his father. During the escape, Kafka ran into multiple chaotic situations, and he managed to solve all of them at the end. The boy named Crow appears throughout the novel and plays a big role in Kafka’s decisions. He always comes out when Kafka does not know what to do and gives him advice. In Kafka on the Shore, the boy named Crow played a role of guidance and logic before, during, and after Kafka’s journey.
When Kafka was about to run away, the boy named Crow was trying to tell him that running away will not help him to gain the initiative of his life, and running away will not change his fate. He should face the problem and face his fear, not avoid them. Crow was playing the role of guiding Kafka to think logically and not to be overwhelmed by his emotion during his journey. It was not wise to run away, and Crow used a sandstorm to symbolize that fate is inevitable. In the text, fate is described as “a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions”, and Crow said to Kafka that “you change direction but the sandstorms chase you”. The message which Crow is trying to convey to Kafka is that fate is inevitable, and no matter what Kafka does and how hard he tries to escape from it, he can not run away from it. However, Kafka was not mature at that time and he was dealing with a lot of emotions, therefore, he can’t fully understand what Crow said to him. Kafka feels the sense of escaping the community, from the situation he is trapped in, and he feels the need for escaping in order to be “the world strongest fifteen-year-old”. But he failed to realize that fate will always chase him to wherever he goes, and he has not reached the realization that he should deal with the problems he is facing at present and solve the problems with his father and his isolation at school. He intended to show his strength by running away, however it wasn’t the right way which can helps him to be free. Moreover, Crow warned Kafka that the storm “will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades”, as it foresees the danger associated with running away. Because Kafka did not realize that he can be in so many troubles and problems, Crow was trying to help Kafka and guide him by stopping Kafka and telling him the hidden danger in the world by referring to the metaphors of the sandstorm. Compare to Kafka, Crow has a clearer logic and is more mature. He knows Kafka should face problems directly and that running away would not solve the problem.
During Kafka’s journey, he runs into a lot of chaotic situations, and Crow helps Kafka to solve them. For example, when Kafka wakes up in a bush with no memory of what had happened and feels overwhelmed by fear and confused when he sees the blood on his T-shirt, he could not think properly. In the book, he says “I am scared, and my teeth won’t stop chattering”. The boy named crow appeared and remind Kafka that he is “the toughest fifteen-year-old on the planet”, and Kafka should “take some deep breaths and start using your brain”. Crow encouraged Kafka to be the world’s toughest fifteen years old when he found himself in a difficult situation. This helped Kafka to stay positive and try to find his way out. When Kafka read about the death of his father, he starts to realize that he is not avoiding fate. The boy named Crow again told Kafka that “distance won’t solve anything”. This relates to Crow trying to tell that fate is inevitable at the beginning, and this further shows that Crow is more logical and can foresee things better than Kafka can. Crow is always trying to guide Kafka to the right track. This concept also draws out one of the other meanings of the name “Kafka”, as it means “Crow” in Czech. The most prominent reference to the Crow in Japanese culture is in the Legend of Yatagarasu, where the Crow is deemed as a guidance figure sent from Heaven, which encompasses the role of the Boy Named Crow, who guides Kafka through his journey. Crows are an embodiment of the wisdom that Kafka possesses but to which he does not always have full access. Kafka begins his sexual relationship with Miss Saeki, dreams of raping Sakura, and enters into the deepest part of the forest, a crow caws ominously in the distance as if trying to warn him.
At the end of the novel, Crow guides Kafka into a new life. Crow in Japanese culture symbolizes guidance. The most famous crow-god is Yatagarasu. This crow was sent from heaven to guide Emperor Jimmu on his initial journey from the region which would become Kumano to what would become Yamato. At the end of Kafka’s journey, he has experienced and grew a lot. He was overwhelmed by all of those things. He was not sure if he had grown and become more mature or not. Crow also suggested that Kafka should get some sleep, and when he woke up, he will be “part of the brand-new world”. The boy named Crow came out and said: “you did the right thing” to help Kafka to accept what he learned from this journey and remember them. Crow has confirmed Kafka’s growth and guides him into his more mature self.
In the novel, Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami used the boy names Crow as a more logical and mature Kafka. He served as guidance and support throughout Kafka’s journey. Crow helped Kafka on his way to grow, and without Crow’s support, Kafka could not fulfill his fate.
Contemporary Literature (kafka on the Shore, the Sympathizer, Can Poetry Matter, Hillbilly Elegy, Exhortation)
Contemporary literature is literature written after World War II through the current day. Products of contemporary literature mirror and reflect a society’s social and/or political perspectives, which the authors show through pragmatic characters and life-like connections to current events. When we talk about contemporary literature and think back to the beginning of it, we have to acknowledge the time period in which it began in, World War II and the neighboring events. The dismay of the war, including bombs, genocide and corruption, were the road that led us to this new kind of literature, it presented a way to share thoughts and feelings about these horrifying events. It is from these real-life motifs that a new period of writing was discovered. While there is not a specific type or structure for contemporary writing, each piece sends a different message from a person living through and after World War II. Yet, not all works revolve around the Holocaust or war accounts. Contemporary pieces of writing focus on speaking about the injustices in the world, as well as the propositions and questions that arose during this frightening time in global history. The war served as a stimulant for this change of mind, and the authors writing during that time deliberately and unknowingly elucidate this change in thinking through their writing.
Kafka on the Shore, published in Japan in 2002 by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, now translated into English, is an example of contemporary literature written about post war events. Comprising two separate but complementary plots, Kafka on the Shore jumps between the two, alternating each of them throughout the chapters. The odd-numbered chapters tell the story of 15-year old Kafka Tamura, who runs away from his father’s house to escape an Oedipal curse and commence his journey in search of his mother and sister. After numerous adventures, he finds asylum in a library in Takamatsu, managed by the detached and isolated character of Miss Saeki and the more sympathetic character, Oshima. The even numbered chapters tell the story of Nakata, an old man who lost most of his intelligence during an accident and as a result, acquired the ability to speak to cats. Nakata finds a part time job as a lost cat finder. One missing cat in particular, moves him far away from his home and out into the outside world for the first time in his life. He makes social acquaintance with a truck driver named Hoshino, who takes him on as a passenger in his truck and quickly becomes very attached to Nakata.
Kafka on the Shore demonstrates a combination of pop culture, detail, reality, an interrelated plot, and dominant sexuality. It also features an increased focus on Japanese traditions, in particular, Shinto, a series of ritual practices to be carried out hastily in order to form a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past. The power and artistry of music as a communicative artistic form is one of the fundamental themes of this novel. The title of the book itself, Kafka on the Shore, comes from a song Kafka is given on a record in the library where he found refuge. Philosophy is also an essential theme throughout the novel as many character dialogues and monologues are inspired by their own examinations of the world around them and their relationship to it. Beethoven’s music, specifically that of the Archduke Trio, is used as a compensating analogy to support the themes of the novel. Other conspicuous themes in the novel include; the importance of self-sufficiency, the relationship between dreams and reality, the idea of fate, and the subconscious mind. The frameworks of Kafka on the Shore is creative and original. Kafka and Nakata’s stories are told alongside each other, running alternatively. Kafka, the teenage boy, narrates his own story in the first person. While Nakata’s story, in contrary, is told in the third person. That choice in narration, in a cunning way, accurately describes his own way of talking and thinking as a consequence of a wartime calamity. Nakata’s accident made him lose a part of his intelligence, thus making him less expressive and fervent, which is why Murakami gave him a voice by way of third person, embodying to Nakata’s character itself. I found that very impressive and profound. In this story, the characters encounter ghosts, it rains fish and leeches, and the characters visit comprehensively different worlds, like the place that hangs between life and death. At some parts throughout the story, the subconscious of the characters will narrate the story and we see different sides to the characters. Murakami makes the reader feel like he/she is part of this surreal world, the audience feels like they are stepping inside of the characters shoes; for the younger audience, relating to Kafka may be easier to to share their feelings and thoughts relating to their own lives, their own relationship to the world and what they contribute to it. Kafka on the Shore is also amply filled with quotations from old ideologies, such as; Greek Gods, old English literature, and even Franz Kafka (also one of the protagonist’s name). Inclusively, Kafka at the beginning of the story runs away from his father’s home as an escape from an Oedipal prediction, which is related to Greek mythology. Although some parts of the novel were tedious and dragged along in a sense, I found that the supporting characters stood out, making them memorable to the story overall. The theme of this novel is dreary and disheartening, but it has a sense of humor in some parts, although it might not be the usual cheery type of humor most people are used too, but I find it made the story intricate and magnificent. Haruki Murakami writes in a Kafkaesque kind of style that makes his world fully authentic, convincing and sustainable. While this book might not be for everyone, there is no disagreement that Murakami has an ingenious grip at writing, and his technique and aesthetic is worthy of remarking.
The Sympathizer, published in 2015 by Vietnamese-American professor Viet Thanh Nguyen, is another excellent example of contemporary literature written post Vietnam War. The book tells the story of the South Vietnamese government in 1975 and living as an American exile in Los Angeles. The story is set as the flashback of a political prisoner who is being terrorized during a confession investigation. The American exile is told through the point of view of a half-Vietnamese, half-French undercover communist agent. The spy remains unnamed throughout the novel from the fall of Saigon, to the refugee camps, to the relocation in Los Angeles, to his time as a film consultant in the Philippines, and finally to his return and captivity in Vietnam. The point of view of this book is reflected on the literature of the war, not to mention how literary the Vietnam war was, and because of it, produced and created an endless number of pieces of fiction and nonfiction writing. Nguyen was born in Vietnam but was raised in the United States from a young age, this book reflects his perspective on the war and its aftermath. Through his writing, he gave the voiceless victims of the war a voice, and shined a new light and perspective to an event that happened more than forty years ago. Some universal themes in this book were: the fallacies between the East and West and the moral crisis everyone all over the world who are forced to choose between now what’s wrong or right but rather what is right and right. The protagonist and narrator, although nameless, was a very memorable character, whom because of his migration, was now Americanized, dividing his heart (his culture and background, Vietnam) and his mind (his new life in the U.S). By far the most distinctive stylistic feature of this book is the anonymous narrator who provides the commentary throughout the story. The narrator guides its reader through the discrepancies of the war and of American identity. The first person narration evolves from the foundation for the plot of the book: a confession from the protagonist/narrator to the communist law enforcement trying to get him to explain his exile. The communist impounders force him to write and rewrite his narration of the events, in an effort to correct or change his philosophical views on American and the South Vietnamese enemies. The question of race and ethnicity and the equivalent cultural class, is a repeating theme throughout the novel and predominantly debated in the scenes where the characters reach Los Angeles. The refugees surrender to the American way of life physically, but mentally and emotionally, they continue to long for their old lives back home in Vietnam, secretly scheming to make a return once and for all. Their adaptation consists of setting up small are specifically for native Vietnamese communities, where the order stays the same as in their homeland, Vietnam. In an attempt to arrange our protagonist a much needed breather from his complicated secret life, the narrator created a mini sub-story in the form of a movie in the Philippines which is supposed to praise the American efforts done during the Vietnam War. Once the movie is over, we are taken back to Los Angeles, where the Captain (protagonist) prepares for his return which ends up in his own imprisonment. This is when we learn who the mastermind between all the political games is, and we get to witness the practices of the Communist regime at its finest. Surrender was achieved through hard labour, heinous tortures based on Soviet techniques, mind games to the extreme, with the desire that the brain-washed brains would absorb the revolutionary ideas and beg for forgiveness from Vietnam. The imprisonment scenes are very intense and horrifying, yet the climax is predictable and the confession is barren of emotions, which was worrisome. Through this we can see how the writer failed to institute a connection with the reader.
The Sympathizer is a heavy novel that focuses on the political realities of the fall of Saigon in 1975 and its aftermath. The construction of a rather cold and emotionless journal, provides a vivid understanding of the cultural ranges of the American-Vietnamese relationship and into the spying and manipulating world of the Communist regime. This book in comparison to Kafka on the Shore, is a book that mostly makes an incredible historical point of view of contemporary writing, but is a feeble story from the perspective of character development and action. Because the narrator of the novel is cold and aloof, as readers it is difficult to share thoughts, ideas, and feelings because there is not much to work with in those departments. The revelation at the end of the book is the insight that saves the narrator from utter despair and anguish. Despite everything that he had faced, his people and him still considered themselves revolutionary, they remained most hopeful of creatures (humans), a revolutionary in search of a revolution, although all they really wanted to do was live a normal life. This was the first time any real emotional connection was felt throughout the 382 pages in the book.
American poetry, although completely different than novel writing, has also changed extensively within the last two centuries. In his essay, Can Poetry Matter, Dana Gioia says that American poetry today, now belongs to a subculture. It is no longer part of the mainstream of artistic and intellectual life, it has become the specialized occupation of a relatively small and isolated group. The spread of new poetry and poetry programs is astonishing and has historically broken record. Making a living as a poet today is much easier than it had been in say the eighteenth century which now include even opportunities to teach college level classes in creative writing, as well as elementary and middle school level classes. Over the past half century, as American poetry’s specialist audience has steadily expanded, its general readership has declined. Leading critics rarely review poetry and practically no one reviews it except for other poets. A new novel or biography is reviewed on or around its publication date, a new collection by an important poet might wait up to a year for it to be noticed, if it even gets reviewed at all. Until about thirty years ago most poetry appeared in magazines that addressed audiences on a wide variety of subjects such as, politics, humor, fiction, and reviews.
The spread of literary journals and presses over the past thirty years has been less of an increased demand for poetry among the public but rather a desperate need of writing teachers for professional acceptance and validation. A poetry industry has been created to serve the interests of the producers of the poetry and not the audience who is intended to read these poems, and in the process, betrays the principles of the a the integrity of the art has been betrayed. Consequently, most contemporary poets, knowing that they are essentially invisible in the larger span of things, focus on the more intimate forms of lyric and verse. The other side of the debate is that poetry today goes more in depth of things rather than superficially like it had been previously. Music for example, while not immediately considered poetic, is lyric and verse, which in modern day American poetry is considered poetry. The Swedish Academy honored Bob Dylan with the most prestigious literary award in the world and some contemporary Americans poets and scholars have boycotted the selection. Bob Dylan, who has been around since the early 1960’s, songs portray the complexities of song and self. Dylan’s songs ask who is the self, what the conflict is, how does the chorus help show that; his songs serve as measure of connections and talk about a conflicted self which is what modern music is all about. Music is more than a bodily experience and is fully engaged with ideas of what literature can do today. Lyrics in music today are similar to what people on social media today portray of the self. The Swedish Academy honored Bob Dylan with the most prestigious literary award in the world because his lyrics were an impeccable illustration of what poetry has become today and it gives us a hint of where it’s headed in the future. Gregory Pardlo, an emerging, award winning contemporary African American poet, demonstrates an engagement in lyrical text analysis. Like Bob Dylan, Pardlo writes about conflicts of the self, he digs deeper into issues, raising the level of complexities of the self. In his book Digest, Pardlo writes about a wide variety of types of conflicts oneself can have. It touches the audience to dig deeper into themselves and really reflect on life in parts rather than as a whole. Both Pardlo and Dylan have done a fascinating job at exhibiting what American poetry is today. It makes connections with the self as not just part of oneself but also as a part of history. For the future, poetry is headed towards the direction of spoken word poetry which continues to grow in popularity and significance. Spoken poetry gives poetry an extra touch of emotion and it makes the general audience go more in depth of themselves and think about all the different complexities and discover something new about the self. There are two sides to modern American poetry, like in literature, there’s the conservatives (canon literature) and there’s the contemporary writers (modern) and this debate is clear, but it will be ongoing for the time to come.
A different type of writing genre, but still considered contemporary literature, is Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Hillbilly Elegy offers an insight into the rage and resentments that fuel today’s political revolt amongst what used to be the working class. Vance learned to despise the people who depended on others and especially criticized the people who were unable or unwilling to find work and make their lives better. He believed that people stayed poor because they didn’t work hard enough to meet their ‘personal responsibility’, even if he believed at one point he was one of them and his family were still those kind of people. Vance learned to drop what threatened to develop, into a destructive self-hate, resentful, and eagerness to blame a system that left his family and community feeling neglected, unheard, and betrayed. On the checklist of modern privilege, Vance has everything that in America would create for a successful and accomplished American Dream. Vance is white, male, straight and Protestant, but although he meets the qualifications for modern privilege, his backstory is misleading. His people, the ‘hillbillies’ or rednecks, weren’t immigrants that came from South America or Europe, they were white Americans who for generations had lived in poverty. Vance’s ancestors were sharecroppers, coal miners, machinists, millworkers, all low-paying, body-killing jobs that over the years shut down or no longer provided the support the workers needed to sustain their families.
Hillbilly Elegy has given incredible insights into why Donald Trump was demonstrated so attractive to the American white working class living in the middle of nowhere America during the presidential election. We can see how ‘hillbillies’ could embrace and accept Trump, a xenophobic misogynist with an erratic temperament, as not only one of their own, but as leader of this country. Vance indicates how a sense of victimhood and the habit to blame others for their problems and struggles was successfully utilized during Trump’s campaign. Immigrants, terrorists, the governments of other countries, Obama, and black people are all seen as responsible for the lives that ‘hillbillies’ have lived for centuries, but as Vance points out, blame everyone except themselves for their own misfortunes. For people born and raised in the American middle class today and being well educated in a functional working school system, this book will open your eyes to what’s on the opposite side of the ‘1%’. The working class that was until recently truly a “working” class, but has lately been deprived not only of work and monetary stability, but also of dignity and shoved to the bottom of the social class scale. Whether or not you agree with J.D. Vance’s argument, you must give him credit for his touch on such a taboo subject today. He frames his critique abundantly, looking at this issue from multiple lens and specifying that it isn’t laziness that’s destroying the ‘hillbilly’ culture, but the habit of blaming others for adversity and not seeking the actual root of the dilemma is what is going to leave ‘hillbillies’ stuck in an impoverished society for many generations to come. Classical literature also referred to as canonical literature, was once referred to the literature written by the Ancient Greeks and Romans (Plato, Cicero, Socrates,) however, nowadays it is generally used to refer to anything written before the 20th century (Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Milton). An example of a canon writer and someone whose writing I admire, would be Franz Kafka. Although Kafka was a German-language novelist and short story writer in the late 18th, early 19th century, his work entirely has been found to be closely related to his life. Franz Kafka who is considered a canonical writer, demonstrates through his stories that people have to adjust their sexuality, religion, and target the idea of the Oedipus Complex or Freudianism. They must also deal with injustice and the hypocrisy of authority figures. Kafka demonstrated his views on life through the protagonists in his stories; his protagonists struggle with accepting their sexuality, dealing with family pressures that often times ruined or took away the personal goals of the character and led him to a life of misery. This is what Kafka would call Kafkaesque; the things in life that change our perspective completely and change who we are. In many ways Kafka was a canon writer with contemporary ideas and thoughts. Like Kafka, Vance zooms in deeper into his descriptions and writes them in a way that is more familiar for the audience/readers to really connect and understand what they’re reading. By relating to the audience, the writer keeps the readers intrigued and reading and that is what makes a writer a good writer. The way they handle the element of description in their writing is in a way that keeps the audience intrigued the whole way through, it describes even the slightest detail without dragging it out too much, it connects with the audience to give the reader an increased understanding in the root of the story. Kafka’s personal life and life as a young boy influenced who he became in his adult life. Kafka felt like he had failed in the basic life goals in life and that is what triggered to create the protagonists in his stories that lived Kafkaesque lives. Growing up in a family who come from a long list of ancestors also shaped and changed how Vance saw life in his adulthood. He knew he wasn’t going to make it far in life if he stayed hillbilly and reflected on that cultural lifestyle as not only an insider to that culture but also as an outsider looking into this culture.
Exhortation, one of the eleven short stories in Tenth of December written by George Saunders begins with a straightforward anecdote of typical annoying supervisor to staff communication. The short story is an email written by Todd Birnie, the division director of a company to his staff about the March performance statistics. Two aspects of the story that I thought were written effectively were sentence structure and word choice. The entire first paragraph is a representation of who Todd was as not only a person but as a supervisor/director, his word choice and paragraph structure give the email its lengthy annoying feel to make us the readers feel like this is our supervisor emailing us in real life. Typically, what makes Saunders’ craft and technique different in my opinion is his tone. The tone of this story is what brought the story to life in me, the reader’s head. I was able to clearly picture Todd and even how his staff would have reacted to this email and how it would have turned about in the workplace. Would the numbers go up? Would they meet the quota? What would happen to them and possibly their jobs if they didn’t change? Typically, what makes Saunders’ craft and technique different in my opinion is his tone. The tone of this story is what brought the story to life in me, the reader’s head. I was able to clearly picture Todd and even how his staff would have reacted to this email and how it would have turned about in the workplace. Would the numbers go up? Would they meet the quota? What would happen to them and possibly their jobs if they didn’t change? Saunders matches up to what is considered to be a masterful modern approved storyteller such as authors like, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and O’Connor because present day literature is short and straight to the point, as well as it is told in times after the world war. Literature is not quite as long as old literature books are and Saunders does just this and this is how he represents contemporary fiction and the art of modern literature. I feel that this story was shorter than maybe some of the other short stories in the book but it was one of the stories that had the most imagery and really had me grasped. Even though I was rather annoyed with Todd and the director/supervisor I imagined him to be, I was really intrigued with trying to fill in between the lines of the story. I enjoyed going more in depth with the storyline behind the short story but I was also appreciative of the short length of the story. The way Saunders ended his short story was so accurate as to what would have happened in a real life case. Looking briefly back at the last fifteen years, the contemporary books come from a somewhat wider geographical area than before, even if those books are largely written by a few Western-educated Anglophone authors. Globalization as a theme of contemporary literature is, not surprisingly, common or ubiquitous. The once-popular vision of a globally unified venture operating in a practically borderless world has lost its original goal, it was weakened not just by politics but by the realities of doing business in markets around the world whom have very different motions and regulations. As for publishing, the media industries and specifically publishing industries are undergoing major changes and has the communications industries are being subjected to globalization. Globalization meaning the markets producing media products such as: films, television shows, sound recordings, books, magazines, and newspapers, are being focused from one developing country to another. As a consequence of language advances, media products that begin their careers in English speaking countries, have a considerable ‘head start’, both in conditions of actual buyer numbers as well as in terms of the probability of getting translated and therefore becoming bigger and more successful. Having achieved the supremacy that it has, this is also the reason why English has become one of the top international languages.
As a budding writer, something I have learned about contemporary literature from reading these texts throughout the semester is that description is everything in any kind of writing. The way a writer describes and says things in his/her writing is whether or not the piece of writing will be successful. What I have learned about craft and technique when it comes to this particular element is that it is important to describe and relate things in a way the audience will get a better understanding of the concept being deciphered. In my future work I want to approach the element of description in a more detailed manner, I’m going to further break down my thoughts in ways the audience has to immediately understand and picture what I am saying. Added to that, demonstrating emotion and feeling through my characters, is a way for the readers to connect to the characters, therefore connecting to the book itself. When there is no showing of emotion, like in The Sympathizer, it is very hard for an author to connect with his/her audience. By further developing my character emotionally or finding a way to connect with my readers emotionally, I can guarantee them to be absorbed into my writing through it all.
Loneliness in Kafka on the Shore
In Haruki Murakami’s ‘Kafka on the Shore,’ loneliness consumes the main character throughout the novel. Kafka Tamura’s loneliness is a constant inner battle that not only affects him but the people he meets along his journey through the mountainside town of Takamatsu. Kafka has an extremely complicated relationship with his memories. He wants to fill in the holes of his memory with the face and identity of his mother and adopted sister, but he also has a hard time forgiving her for abandoning him. So as a result, he closed himself off to everyone, and loneliness started to consume his whole life.
When Kafka was a child, his mother and sister abandoned him and left him all alone with his emotionally abusive father. Kafka learned to ignore his father. For several years they would rarely speak a word to each other. As a result, he decided on his 15th birthday; he would run away from home. For two years prior to this, he would go to the library every day and go to the gym for at least one hour each day. He was preparing for his leave. Kafka planned to take some money from his father, clothes, a phone, and a watch. He left and gave himself the name Kafka. We never learn his real name. Due to Kafka’s fear of being abandoned, he never made friends or create close relationships with anyone in his life. This fear causes him to leave people along his journey to ensure he will not be hurt again. The first girl he meets on his journey is named Sakura. She met him on his first bus ride. He was timid and did not speak much, but she was persistent in becoming friends. They exchanged numbers after Kafka told her he was 17. She assured him if he needed a place to stay, he could give her a call. Kafka called her after he woke up being unconscious and covered in blood. She let him stay over and said he could stay for however long he needed. However, due to his innate fear of being abandoned, he left the next morning without her knowing. Kafka did not have a place to sleep that night, but his habits of isolating himself caused him to leave someone he somewhat cared about. He was attracted to her, which made him even more fearful of abandonment. Deep down, Kafka wants to connect with others. He does not want to be all by himself anymore. His constant creation of walls builds around himself, and loneliness causes him to continually make bad decisions regarding his relationships with others.
Memory plays a massive role for every character in Kafka on the Shore, especially Kafka. Each character has a complicated relationship with the memory. For example, Miss Saeki, who is a middle-aged woman that runs Komura Memorial Library, lives inside her memories. She keeps replaying past actions and emotions in her mind, which prevents were from enjoying living in the moment and stops her from giving meaning to her life. She fears change — however, Kafka as the most complicated relationship to memory. Kafka has holes in his memory, which he longs to fill. He does not remember the face of his mother or his sister, which also plays a roll in him being unable to forgive his mother’s past actions. At the beginning of the novel, Kafka is excited to leave his past behind and create a new life for himself, but his past trauma quickly catches up to him which leads to him making several bad decisions, such as leaving Sakura, a girl he saw a future with, the moment he had the chance, taking him back to where he started: alone. Kafka also struggles with his identity. Memory and loneliness connect under the overall theme of his identity. Kafka often wishes to leave his body, which contains the DNA which connects him to his emotionally abusive father and mother, who abandoned him. Nevertheless, unfortunately for Kafka, this will always be apart of him. This causes an inner conflict within himself and almost leads to his complete destruction.
Kafka’s long journey through the small mountainside town is filled with confusion, loneliness, and loss. But Kafka overcomes this after a long journey filled with his own self-destructive tendencies. It is no surprise how broken he was. For almost his entire life, all he knew was abandonment and hatred. So, putting himself in a box and never creating close relationships was his way of protection. Kafka was secure and independent, but Murakami demonstrates that the ability to be alone is essential — but it is equally as important to allow support from others.
Self-actualization in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and in Kafka on the Shore
Literary texts are a pervasive medium for expressing opinion about the human condition and, as a result, common moral and ethical messages are found across a diverse range of stories. The novels Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Kafka on the Shore are not an exception to this as the authors comment on concepts of human nature and development. The main theme of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews is how dramatic life events are often necessary to understand and accept true self-identity which is known as self-actualization. In Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, how a person’s ability to reach self-actualization is determined by having experiences that allow them to introspect and ultimately alter their perception of self. Self-actualization represents a concept that is derivative of humanistic psychological theory and the work of Abraham Maslow. According to Maslow, self-actualization is a multifaceted concept representing growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest needs — those for meaning in life. The process of self-actualization is present in both novels but, differ in the way they are presented and explored.
In Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the process of self-actualization is apparent through dramatic life events that provide understanding and acceptance of true self-identity. The characters demonstrate that the lack of knowledge others have of them is a reflection of how little the character knows them self. At the beginning of the novel, Greg takes pride in his ability to live an anonymous existence. He refuses to associate himself with anyone as he believes that if no attention is drawn to him, no one can label or judge him. Greg refers to Earl, the sole person that resembles a friend in his life, as a co-worker, only making films with him and essentially cutting him off emotionally. He convinces himself that he prefers life this way, not truly knowing anyone and not being known. Although he does not acknowledge it at this time, Greg is struggling to navigate his identity and place in high school. The withdrawn character is unknown to his peers and to himself. This changes when his mother learns that Greg’s old classmate from Hebrew school, Rachel Kushner, has leukemia and she forces him to spend time with her. Her presence in his life changes his mindset. This is exemplified when he says, “she pretty much knew exactly how I felt about certain things” and that he “can’t deny that it feels nice when someone knows you that well” (Andrews 273). Greg and Rachel’s friendship and her eventual death are the catalyst through which Greg is able to fully understand his identity. Through this dramatic change in Greg’s life, he has an epiphany about who he is as a person and embraces it wholeheartedly. In the epilogue, he says “this book probably makes it seem like I hate myself and everything I do. But that’s not totally true. I mostly just hate every person I’ve ever been. I’m actually fine with myself right now” (Andrews 293) and continues to explain that he will now pursue film school instead of the regular college he originally planned. At this point, his interests and identity as a whole are fully realized. Greg’s journey to self-actualization is only made possible through Rachel’s death, a dramatic life event.
In Kafka on the Shore, having an experience that triggers introspection is necessary to become self-actualized as it causes psychological change. Throughout the novel, the Oedipal prophecy Kafka’s father imparts upon him torments him consuming his thoughts and entire being. When Kafka is describing this to Oshima he says “My father told me there was nothing I could to escape this fate. That prophecy is like a timing device buried inside my genes, and nothing can ever change it.” (Murakami 202) showing how he feels like he is trapped within the identity that his father created. He is unable to let go of the prophecy to the point where he can only see himself as a negative being. As Kafka progresses through the story he continues to grapple with feelings for Miss Saeki (mother figure) and Sakura (sister figure) and feels as though he has no escape from the prophecy, no control over his life. He is lost within himself and does not know who he truly is. Once Kafka is left alone in Oshima’s cabin, Oshima tells him to avoid going into the forest. However, Kafka feels the forest calling out to him and sees venturing through it as the only way to overcome his internal turmoil. Kafka imagines the forest to be a representation of his own confusing psyche and as he continues deeper into the forest he ultimately confronts himself and reconciles. He undergoes an intense psychological experience, venturing into the depths of his own mind and comes out feeling stronger and ready to live a life unaffected by his father’s idea of identity. His experience in the forest allows him to face his fears and gain important self-knowledge — only he can define himself. It is only through this experience that Kafka is able to go through the process of introspection and self-actualize.
In each novel, different aspects of self-actualization are the main focus which is communicated using varied means. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl brings the focus on the self in order to experience life without giving in to the self-consciousness of the adolescent. When a person is able to experience life this way, they are “wholly and fully human” (Maslow 147) and reach self-actualization. In this novel, self-actualization is conceptualized through a tangible event that causes a mental change in the main character. Greg begins the story as a teenager who is struggling to navigate his identity and his self-actualization comes as a by-product of his friendship with Rachel and her eventual death. The death is specific, and its realistic message causes Greg to be introspective and abandon his adolescent self-consciousness. Kafka on the Shore concentrates on acceptance of personal human nature in the stoic style. A self-actualizer is someone who accepts themselves with all their shortcomings and discrepancies from the ideal image without feeling real concern; they feel self-satisfaction. Kafka’s journey to self-actualization is communicated through an intangible event. When he ventures into the forest he goes through a metaphysical experience. The forest becomes his mind and as he continues deeper inside he ultimately confronts himself. This is where the analysis and acceptance of his conscious thoughts and feelings occur. Each character’s self-actualization is conveyed with emphasis on a different area of the concept and level of reality, but ultimately leads them to a path where they face the end, or themselves, and are forced to reconcile themselves in their new knowledge.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Kafka on the Shore both reveal and provide insight into the process of self-actualization however, in each novel emphasis is placed on different areas of the concept and level of reality. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl examines how self-actualization comes as a result of dramatic life events that allow understanding and acceptance of true self-identity. The message of Rachel’s death and Greg’s psychological change is grounded in realism. Kafka on the Shore demonstrates how reaching self-actualization is determined by an introspection-causing experience where perception of self is transformed. Kafka overcomes his instability through an abstract experience where he faces himself. These novels allow the audience to gain understanding of the human condition and relate the fictional stories to their own lives by applying the principle message of self-actualization being an universally achievable state.
The Theme of Identity in Kafka on the Shore
Identity is essentially who you are, the way you think about yourself,the way you are viewed by the world and the characteristics that define you, however in the novel these factors can vary and increase with each character, identity is unique to each person (and character in the book) it is what makes us incomparable and our own person, the different themes and elements associated with identity and the loss of identity. Identity is formed through cultural experiences such as food, music and typically cultural traditions as well as family. In the novel Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami family plays an enormous role in the formation as well as alteration to the characters identity but more specifically to Kafka. Kafka is the novel’s main character who flees from Tokyo to the town of Takamatsu due to a struggling and abusive relationship with his father and the lack of presence and recollection of his mother, this relates to the idea of family and identity. In this case Kafka’s lack of relationships with his parental figures has created and altered his identity. However gradually, Kafka establishes a whole, stable personality. Hoshino and Nakata play supporting roles which demonstrate how individual identity is formed by symbolic consumption and how it can contribute to alienation. While Hoshino represents a person who lives in the capitalist society and lives according to his philosophy, Nakata personifies a more marginal point of view. Overall the main factors of identity formation and alteration are accepted by the rapid growth and spread of globalisation and the attributes that come with is as well as family relationships.
Kafka struggles to find his identity throughout the novel hence creating a persona; crow who directs guidance and provides advice to Kafka in times of danger this acts as a coping mechanism for Kafka and acts as the anchor that reminds Kafka of his inner self that he is struggling to navigate. “Sometimes fate is like a sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change directions but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you” in this quote crow is giving Kafka guidance and tells him that the storm isn’t something that’s inside of him but is him, much like identity the storm is inside of him. Reading books for him is a diversion and enables him to acquire a new identity where he feels a sense of belonging however it doesn’t mask his problems and he leaves home in the hope of running away from his insecurities and fears. Kafkas battle with identity results with difficulties in his school life, leading him astray from friends and isolating him from the world this can be described as a result from his abandonment from is mother and sister and lack of connection with his father which pushed him to run away as he does so “He also takes an old photo of himself and his older sister standing on the beach many years ago. The photo fills him with questions — he can’t remember the trip to the beach, or his mother or sister”the photograph shows him that he feels lonely, with no recollection of his mother and sister. Kafka has turned his family’s sense of isolation and loneliness into a desire to escape and live alone.
Although it is clear that Kafka does not have a strong sense of identity and is going through some sort of identity crisis Kafka’s encounter with Miss Saeki and Sakura helps him find some kind of identity as he strongly believes that they could potentially be his mother and sister
Kafka is captivated by Miss Saekis beauty and intelligence, feeling attracted to her as both a romantic partner and mother figure.
The lyrics to ‘Kafka on the Sea’ that miss saeki wrote when she was younger speak directly to Kafka, serving as one of many real or imagined evidence that convinces him to be attracted by destiny to Miss Saeki .Indeed there are many references in the song that link together various elements of the novel, adding a note of surrealism and coincidence that helps explain why characters like Kafka might so strongly believe in fate.The most prominent example of this is the association with the name of Kafka, which seems especially effective because he has chosen for himself the name ‘Kafka.’
The reference to the ‘quest for the entrance rock’ ties the story of Miss Saeki and Kafka to that of Hoshino and Nakata, confirming most characters ‘ fear in the novel that their lives are on predetermined routes.
Refugees UNHCR and Kafka
Refugee identities are complex and influenced not only by internal emotions, values, ethnic and cultural patterns, but also by external factors such as resettlement procedures, forced migrants ‘ policies, cultural traditions, and their new host country’s economic, political and social conditions Over time, refugees are undergoing a challenging identification cycle
The reformulation of involuntary migrant identity can typically be explored in several stages: the preliminary process to seek asylum, the time spent waiting for a verdict on the application for asylum and after obtaining refugee status.When scholars have linked part of identity building to location, often during their travels and while awaiting the asylum decision, asylum seekers are seen as people without a place
They are most often held in tents during most of the application process upon arrival in their country of destination. Such camps are also known to be placeless and are often situated in remote areas of a country and/or not technically part of the country they belong to.
It strengthens the sensation of placelessness. refugee camps have been described as’ non-detention areas ‘ emphasizing their positionless status. Since identity has been linked to position, what happens when asylum seekers with no legal identity live in a place without a legal basis? Will they continue to build their identity on their country of origin?
When refugees are granted refugee status and resettled to their new host country, they begin another process of reformulation of identity. Resettling refugees into new social, cultural, economic and/or political settings can disrupt their identity and sense of belonging in their host country Potentially impacting the status of refugees is the political (positive or negative) point of view of a state and policies against voluntary and forced immigrants that can decide the acceptance of a refugee in the country of destination. One might presume that all immigrants face new living conditions that can influence their identities.
Refugees must also accept the new ‘refugee’ classification that may impact the identity reform process; an aspect that they had not previously had to acknowledge while residing in their country of origin .The refugee label affects not only the classification and categorization of individuals, but also the effect of the label on a person who has to bear it which can influence the feeling of being lost and not knowing your identity
There are many aspects in which the refugee crisis is related to Kafka’s. Despite the fact that Kafka is not a refugee, he can be represented as a refugee inside himself or a prisoner in his own mind He runs away voluntarily from home which is unalike a refugee who is forced out of their own home. Identity plays a significant role in both, refugees are driven into a new lifestyle with a society that is drastically different from the one they were brought up with and many are separated from their loved ones and children who have no relatives.
Analysis of Book “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami
“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine. And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” – Haruki Murakami Kafka on The Shore (p. 5-6).
That quote is one of the most famous quotes from a novel of all time. It comes from the amazingly written novel, Kafka on The Shore, by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is a Japanese author. He is 69 years old, and has written some amazing books such as Norwegian Wood, 1Q84, and of course Kafka on The Shore. He has also had two movies based on his writing, Burning, based on his short story “Barn Burning,” and Norwegian Wood, based on the critically acclaimed novel of the same name. Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan during the crazed baby boom period post-World War 2. Murakami’s writing has been heavily influenced by his interest in western culture. He grew up reading novels by acclaimed writers such as: Franz Kafka, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Dickens, among others. In his down times, he is always running. He is a serious marathon runner, and triathlon enthusiast, and has even run the 100km ultramarathon around Lake Saroma in Hokkaido, Japan. Murakami has written about his experience as a runner in his 2008 memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He has won multiple writing awards as well, including the Gunzo Award, The Franz Kafka Prize, and the World Fantasy Award (Best Novel) for Kafka on The Shore.
Kafka on The Shore is one of Murakami’s most enjoyed novels of his 30+ years of writing. It has won him multiple awards, including the aforementioned, World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2006. Kafka on The Shore is a magical realism, fantasy novel. Since the novel deals with some very real topics, and does contain LGBT characters and slight pedophilia, the novel is more intended for a young adult to adult audience. This makes sense as well, as Murakami writes in an almost “philosopher on a drug-trip” kind of way, so it could be difficult for younger readers to understand what they are reading. The novel is structured around the alternating narratives of Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old buy who is running away from home to escape an awful oedipal prophecy set by his father, and Nakata, an aging and illiterate simpleton who had never completely recovered from his time at war. Kafka’s journey brings him to a private library in Takamatsu and to a mountain hideaway where the laws of time don’t apply. But, the more Kafka tries to avoid his fate, the closer he comes to fulfilling it. Nakata also sets forth on a quest for an enigmatic entrance stone, the significance of which he does not know. These narratives push forward like trains on parallel tracks. We know the tracks will converge at some point, but not knowing when, where, or how is what makes this novel so compelling. The switching narrative between Kafka and Nakata is an amazing way to tell two amazing stories, and show how they eventually collide. The concept of a switching narrative is very difficult writing style to master, and only certain others like Rick Riordan, Vladimir Nabokov, W.G. Sebald, Kathryn Stockett, and now Haruki Murakami. But when it is done right, like in Kafka on The Shore, A multiple narrative novel is amazing, as you are able to get multiple perspectives on a story, and in this specific case, you are able to see how two amazing stories eventually cross paths.
Kafka on The Shore, like many other novels, is a novel with many themes. This novels most major themes are: the mind vs the body, fate & prophecy, and music & introspection. There are two major times in the novel that the theme of music is specifically present. The first time is on chapter 23, when Kafka listens to a song written by Miss Saeki, the librarian. The song is titled, “Kafka on The Shore” and was written by Miss Saeki when she was younger. The lyrics to the song are very obscure and surreal, such as,
“You sit at the edge of the world,
I am in a crater that’s no more.
Words without letters
Standing in the shadow of the door.
The moon shines down on a sleeping lizard,
Little fish rain down from the sky.
Outside the window there are soldiers,
Steeling themselves to die.
Kafka sits in a chair by the shore,
Thinking of the pendulum that moves the world, it seems.
When your heart is closed,
The shadow of the unmoving Sphinx,
Becomes a knife that pierces your dreams.
The Drowning girl’s fingers
Search for the entrance stone, and more.
Lifting the hem of her azure dress,
At Kafka on the shore.” (p. 227-228).
The second time in the novel that shows how important music was in the novel, and in Murakami’s life is on chapter 13, when Oshima, Kafka’s friend, says, “That’s why I listen to Schubert while I’m driving. Like I said, it’s because all the performances are imperfect. A dense, artistic kind of imperfection stimulates your consciousness, keeps you alert. If I listen to some utterly perfect performance of an utterly perfect piece while I’m driving, I might want to close my eyes and die right then and there. But listening to the D major, I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of—that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally, I find that encouraging.” (p. 111-112). This quote is important, as it explains how powerful music is to people. Since Oshima is a hemophiliac, he often thinks of his own inevitable demise, but he does seem to be comfortable with those thoughts, and it seems the music is a way for him to explain his inner thoughts.
The second theme present in this novel is mind vs body. This is a big theme for many of the characters, as many of them understand that we really all are just a mind trapped inside an organ jar. For Kafka, he really likes to work on his physical strength, as it makes him feel like hie mind and body are working together, even if only temporarily. Oshima is a transgender male, so he constantly feels like his mind and body don’t go together. He also has Hemophilia, so any accident could be fatal for him, which leads to him having many deep and even slightly dark thought about life and death. The last major character that is important specifically for this theme is Nakata. Nakata, like the other characters, experiences a split between his mind and body. When he was a child during World War 2, a freak accident occured and put him into a coma for several weeks. Nakata believes that during that coma, his mind left his mortal body, and wandered off, and later returned as a blank slate. Because of this mind-leaving event, Nakata doesn’t really feel at home any more in his body. In the novel, Dr. Shigenori Tsukayama, a military doctor who assesses children involved in the Rice Bowl Hill incident explains it simply. He states, “It might sound strange to put it this way, but it seemed like the real Nakata had gone off somewhere, leaving behind for a time the fleshy container, which in his absence kept all his bodily functions going at the minimum level needed to preserve itself. The term “spirit projection” sprang to mind.” (p. 67).
The final theme in this amazing novel is Fate & Prophecy. The most famous quote from this novel, the one that started this essay, is one that speaks directly to this theme of fate. That quote is very important, as it can be used as a reference point for many of the events that take place in the novel, from the talking cat to the fish falling from the sky. Another important quote about fate and prophecy is, “There are a lot of things that aren’t your fault. Or mine, either. Not the fault of prophecies, or curses, or DNA, or absurdity. Not the fault of structuralism or the Third Industrial Revolution. We all die and disappear, but that’s because the mechanism of the world itself is built on destruction and loss. Our lives are just shadows of that guiding principle. Say the wind blows. It can be a strong, violent wind or a gentle breeze. But eventually every kind of wind dies out and disappears. Wind doesn’t have form. It’s just a movement of air. You should listen carefully, and then you’ll understand the metaphor.” (p. 336). This quote is said by Oshima to Kafka as they’re talking about Kafka’s relationship with Miss Saeki, and how Kafka may be the train of death fastly approaching Miss Saeki’s train station. This is a more serious part of the book, but it shows how real all the characters are.
As mentioned throughout this essay, all the main characters have to deal with a lot of social, cultural, and mental issues. Oshima is a gay transgender male who has hemophilia. He is also trying to help keep Kafka from the police while also giving him life advice. Nakata is a World War Two veteran who went into a coma after a chemical incident, and awakens having lost his entire memory. Nakata is on a journey to find a powerful stone, and along the way meets a nice truck driver named hoshino, and also learns he can talk to cats. Miss Saeki is a middle aged woman who lost the love of her life back in her 20’s, and now is in a dark place in her life. According to Oshima, “Miss Saeki’s life basically stopped at age twenty, when her lover died. No, maybe not age twenty, maybe much earlier…I don’t know the details, but you need to be aware of this. The hands of the clock buried inside her soul ground to a halt then.” (p. 161). She is also trying to start a relationship with Kafka, but Oshima believes this is slowly leading her to her death. Kafka Tamura is a 15 year old boy from Tokyo, who is trying to escape his father and his prophecy that states he must kill his father and sleep with his mother and sister. As all these stories entwine into one wonderful novel, all these characters not only have to face their own challenges, but must now help out each other, with each of their challenges as well.
Haruki Murakami is a wonderful author, and has written many novels in the last 30 years, but Kafka on The Shore is definitely one of his best. It has a great story, intriguing characters, and it is masterfully written. He uses many good writing techniques throughout the novel. He is especially known for his amazing metaphors. One of the most famous is the one that started this essay. This metaphor is said by A Boy Named Crow, Kafka’s alter ego. This metaphor is very important, as it can really hit home with a lot of readers, about their lives and their believed fates. It also explains a lot of what happens in the novel, including the cat talking to Nakata, and the fish raining from the sky. Another writing technique Murakami uses is his phenomenal word choice. In this novel, great word choice was a necessity, as without it, it seems we would’ve lost half the story, and definitely a lot of the heart we had for the characters. There are two quotes that really show his amazing word choice in a very short and simple way. The first one is, “Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” (p. 389). The second one is, “If you remember me, then I don’t care if everyone else forgets.” (p. 467). Both of these quotes deal with memories, and are both very powerful. The first quote is said by Miss Saeki to Nakata. Nakata has no memory, and Miss Saeki remember everything, so Nakata asks her to tell him what memories are life, and she responds with that quote. The second quote is said from Oshima to Kafka right before he leaves back to Tokyo after Miss Saeki dies. The second quote shows how much love and trust Oshima is putting into Kafka, because when someone leaves this world. The only thing left of them is their legacy; people’s memories of them. Once everyone forgets you, you’re gone forever. So for Oshima to say he is okay with everyone else forgetting him, so long as Kafka remembers him, is a tough thing to say. These two quotes are interesting and very compelling quotes, as they both hold a lot of strength within them, and the stories behind them are somehow even more interesting and heart-felt. The third language device that should be pointed out for this novel is Murakami’s amazing ability to have great attention to detail, and also not have the story get droll or drag on at all. A great quote from the novel that really shows his amazing attention to detail is, “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. 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.” (p. 463-464). This is also one of his amazing metaphors in the novel. This quote is easily able to paint a picture of that library in any reader’s mind, and that is really an accomplishment in itself.
Haruki Murakami is a wonderful author, and deserves way more praise then what he has gotten so far. He should be one of the authors teacher’s recommend to students, as he is an author who is actually able to intrigue his audience, and not make his stories drag on, like some authors that students like myself have had to read from in the past. Kafka on The Shore is a great novel, one of the best of all time. This novel is one of the most well-put together novels in a very long time, and it is definitely one of the best written novels ever. It does use a lot of metaphors, which could be good or bad depending on who you are, but the way he uses the is outstanding, and he always finds a way to make his metaphors and similes very interesting and though-provoking, The book did not personally change my way of thinking at all, as I am already a strong believer in everything that this book puts forward, from split of mind and body, to souls going on after death, to souls of the living being possible, etc. I think that if you want a book that will actually capture your attention, make you think about some very thought-provoking topics, and push you out of your comfort zone a bit, then read Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami. I am okay if I forget every other novel, but I will never forget, Kafka on The Shore.
Depths of the Human Psyche in Kafka on the Shore
Kafka on the Shore is a novel written by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami, and translated into English by Phillip Gabriel. Originally published by Shinchosa, the English translation of Murakami’s work is published in the United States by Vintage Books. This book delves into the depths of the human psyche, attempts to define the limits between dreams and reality, and deals heavily with the concept of fate. Kafka on the Shore is set in approximately 1995 and simultaneously tells the story of a young man who decides to run away from his home in the Nakano Ward of Tokyo, and the story of an elderly gentleman named Satoru.
The odd numbered chapters tell the story of the young man who on the night before/morning of his fifteenth birthday takes on the assumed name Kafka Tamura and boards a bus heading from Tokyo to Takamatsu in the Shikoku region of Japan. He runs away from home in an attempt to challenge fate and escape the prophecy made by his father that he would one day murder his father and be with his mother and sister. Having always loved libraries, in Takamatsu Kafka is drawn to the Komura Memorial Library, where he spends the majority of his time reading Burton’s translation of The Arabian Nights, and the complete works of Natsume Soseki. He grows to be close friends with a man named Oshima who works at the library. Kafka himself comes to work in the library, living out of a vacant room in the back of the building. He develops strong feelings of love for the mysterious Miss Saeki who runs the library (and who may or may not be his mother), and he develops a friendship with a young woman named Sakura (who may or may not be his sister). But Kafka’s new life is threatened when he and an old man whom he has never met are wanted in connection with the murder of his father. Ultimately, Kafka’s attempted escape from his home life fails and he returns to a life in Tokyo.
The even numbered chapters tell the story of Satoru Nakata, a man who is on a mission to find a lost cat. On November 7th of 1994, when he was nine-years-old, Nakata as well as the rest of his classmates fell unconscious for an unknown reason. The other students regained consciousness after a few hours, Nakata however, remained in that state for three weeks. Upon waking up he had lost the majority of his memories, the ability to do simple math, the ability to read and write, the ability to think abstractly, and his shadow had somehow become only half as dark as it had once been. He had become “dumb.” As a result of the accident he did however discover a new ability. He could talk to cats.
Now an old man, Nakata lives in the Nakano Ward of Tokyo in an apartment owned by his brother. He receives a subsidy from the governor of Tokyo and to supplement his “sub city,” he makes extra money finding lost cats for the people of the Nakano Ward. During the course of his latest assignment, he runs across “the infamous cat-killer Johnnie Walker” (Murakami 140), who extracts the souls of cats with the intention of making the souls into a flute. Wanting to die, but claiming that he is unable to kill himself, Johnnie Walker (who may in actuality be Kafka’s father) goads Nakata into killing him. Killing Johnnie Walker sets into motion a series of events that lead Nakata to Takamatsu, and the Komura Memorial Library.
The name of the novel, Kafka on the Shore, is a reference to a song written by Miss Saeki about her lost love, as well as a reference to the painting on which the song lyrics are based upon. Both of which share the same title as the novel. Of course the title of the book also references one of the protagonists of the story; namely, Kafka Tamura. The title takes on a symbolic meaning as well. Just as if he were sitting at the edge of the shore, throughout the novel Kafka Tamura is metaphorically at the edge of reality. In this case, I believe that the ocean represents the reality that Kafka is trying to run from, while the sand is representative of the dream world that he so desperately wants to be a part of. By running away from home, Kafka has managed to become seated on the edge of the sand, but if he’s not careful, the tide could snatch him back up, and his life on the sand could meet a tragic end. While Kafka is seeking an escape from his everyday life (the true world), Nakata attempts to escape the dream world in which he has been trapped in since age nine, and become a “normal Nakata” (Murakami 408).
In the beginning of the story, Nakata is depicted as the personification of Daoist ideals. Being unable read, write, or process abstract information, he is kept in blissful ignorance of the world. He couldn’t tell time, nor did he know the days of the week. He lived in a dream world where cats talk and time stands still. He spent his days doing what came natural to him, talking to cats and helping them find their ways back home. He never felt lonely, angry, or worried. His life was “safe and content” (Murakami 215). This way of life ended after his encounter with Johnnie Walker.
After stabbing the cat-killer to death, something comes over Nakata, as if he suddenly became able to interpret his fate. He realized that he had to leave the safety of the Nakano Ward and head west, on his journey he is assisted by a man named Hoshino who bonds with the slightly odd elderly man. After the pair ends up in Takamatsu, it becomes obvious to the reader that Nakata is beginning to change. Upon visiting a library, Nakata begins to express the desire to become a “normal Nakata.” That is, he wants to escape the dream world, the sand, and return to the world that he was a part of before his accident. Near the end of his journey, Nakata demonstrates knowledge of the days of the week. Something that he never would have been able to/need to do, prior to his encounter with Johnnie Walker.
Johnnie Walker, the man who triggered Nakata’s journey (and very well may have been the man who made the Oedipus-style prophecy about Kafka) symbolizes the concept of fate. It is because of him that both protagonists of the story begin their journeys. And it is him that they are trying to escape. In combination with the police force that pursues Kafka and Nakata and represents the idea that one is unable to escape one’s fate, Johnnie Walker conveys the overall theme that is present throughout the novel. I believe this theme is best communicated through the words “man doesn’t choose fate. Fate chooses man” (p. 199).
Kafka’s mother and sister (or at the very least, the characters that represent them) are symbolic of two distinct worlds. Miss Saeki represents the dream world. In Kafka’s room of the library every night, her living ghost appears before him. It is this form of Miss Saeki that Kafka falls in love with. He wants more than anything to be with her. He wants to escape from his current world into hers. On the night when the entrance to the other world is opened, Kafka has his first sexual encounter with her. She quite literally opens up to him and allows passage into her world.
The character of Sakura (the girl who may be Kafka’s sister) on the other hand, represents the world Kafka hopes to escape. She warns Kafka about dealing with people who are not grounded in reality (Miss Saeki). The night before Kafka abandons this world and passes into Miss Saeki’s world, he dreams of Sakura. In this dream he is contemplating raping her. Sakura warns that should he proceed, that would be the end of their relationship, he proceeds. This dream signified a break from the waking world. Kafka had finally escaped from what he had been running from. However, after going to the world that he had longed for throughout the course of the novel, as if drawn back by fate, Kafka returns to his original reality. After returning, he decides to resume his life back in Tokyo, but before he does so, he calls Sakura. This is the reconnect between Kafka and his original world.
Blood carries a heavy weight in this novel. When characters bleed it is a representation of their evil, their sins. For example when Nakata stabs Johnnie Walker, a pool of blood quickly envelops him. Nakata and the scene of the crime are drenched in the dead man’s blood. It is as if upon his death, all of the evil leaves his body and contaminates all that it touches. This could be an augmentation of the traditional Heian belief that blood was unclean.
The odd numbered chapters, Kafka’s chapters, are narrated from the first person point of view. Kafka meticulously notes times, places, and descriptions. The majority of the story reads as if one is reading a diary. The even numbered chapters, Nakata’s chapters are usually told from the omniscient point of view, but at times are told from multiple points of view. This style of writing, coupled with the numerous pop culture and historical references (Beethoven, Tolstoy, Colonel Sanders, Simon and Garfunkel, etc.) and the fact that the true name of the young protagonist is never given draws readers into the story. It is as if the reader is part of the story, experiencing the same things that Kafka experiences. And yet, at the same time the reader is merely looking through a window at what is happening. The reader is fated to shift between these two worlds, just like the protagonists of the story.