Psychic prostitutes, paranormal adventures in parallel worlds, smooth-talking animals: Murakami rolls them out in his novels in deadpan prose that seems to shrug and say, ‘Look, this is no big deal.’ This is what his millions of admirers love and why Internet chatrooms around the English-speaking world have been buzzing for months with the conversation of fans impatient for Philip Gabriel’s translation of Kafka on the Shore.
Murakami is often said to speak to today’s disengaged youth, and it isn’t hard to see why. His kind of alienation is without grumpiness or egotism. His protagonists are acutely aware of their aloneness in this universe, yet never lose their humanity. Detached but not embittered, they make friends and pick up travelling companions easily. They may be disturbed or damaged but are none the less loveable. Experience isolates them but still they want to talk, often by telling long stories. Fortunately most of Murakami’s characters are also good listeners.
As in Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, the narrative of Kafka on the Shore moves between the real and unreal. A fifteen-year-old boy runs away from his father’s home in Tokyo and begins a journey on which he will fulfil an Oedipal