Tag: 1Q84

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Posted April 29, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki MurakamiTitle: Kafka on the Shore (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Vintage, 2002
Pages: 480
Genres: Magical Realism
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Kafka on the Shore tells the story of a fifteen year old book named Kafka who runs away from home to find his mother and sister. Although the alternate chapters tell the story of Nakata; a strange old man who has the ability to talk to cats. Like many of Haruki Murakami’s books, Kafka on the Shore blends pop culture with magical realism in order to explore the psyche of the characters involved.

It is often hard to try and give an overview of a Murakami book because they tend to come out weird and I do not want to give the impression that his novels are not worth attempting. For Kafka on the Shore, the magical realism allows the reader to explore the psychological mind of fifteen year old Kafka Tamune. Not only is Kakfa a young man discovering his sexuality, Sigmund Freud would probably suggest that he also has an Oedipus complex and has developed an unhealthy obsession with his mother and sister.

According to Freud, an Oedipus complex stems from the unconscious mind and normally caused by the repression of a mother (or father) figure. Freudian psychoanalysis theory suggests that this is a key psychological experience needed for normal sexual development. However if it is unsuccessful at resolving it may lead to neurosis, paedophilia, or homosexuality. Without going into the problematic thinking of Sigmund Freud, this does make for an interesting analysis of Kafka’s journey throughout the book, especially with his interactions between Sakura and Miss Saeki.

If we continue looking at this novel through the lens of psychoanalysis theory, we might even get some interesting insights into Nakata. I always thought the loss of mental faculties was due to the psychological trauma, he experienced as a young boy. He was one of sixteen schoolchildren picking mushrooms in a field trip towards the end of World War II, when they were all rendered unconscious from a mysterious light in the sky. However it has also been suggested that maybe Kafka and Nakata are two different parts of the same person.

Every time I read a Haruki Murakami, I am reminded of his brilliance (with the exception of 1Q84), and I want to explore more of his works. I am also reminded that I need to learn a whole lot more about psychoanalytical theories, and how much it would help with books like Kafka on the Shore. For me this was a bildungsroman book about sexual development and memories. However, I found myself more interested in the chapters centred on Kafka over those about Nakata but maybe that was because I understood them a little better.

Yet again Haruki Murakami has impressed me with Kafka on the Shore and I am eager to pick up more of his books. I know magical realism can be scary for some people but I love the way Murakami uses it to explore the mind. My only real criticism of this book is that it was a little bloated and could have been trimmed down a little and still achieve the same. This might be due to an aversion to big books that I really need to overcome and not a true reflection on Murakami. I highly recommend giving this author a go if you have never tried him but Kafka on the Shore is not a good starting point; may I suggest trying Norwegian Wood first.


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Posted November 13, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 13 Comments

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki MurakamiTitle: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Harvill Secker, 2014
Pages: 298
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Tsukuru Tazaki was lucky enough to have four close friends in high school. They were a tight knit group and they all shared their hopes and dreams with each other. When it came to college Tsukuru went off to Tokyo to pursue his dream career while the others remained in Nagoya at various schools. They vowed to remain close and Tsukuru made an effort to visit as much as possible. That was until one day Tsukuru was told that the other four wanted nothing to do with him anymore.

I am not going to go too much into the plot; I think this is something that needs to be discovered within the book. However I do need to talk a little about it. Tsukuru Tazaki had always felt like an outsider, even though he was accepted into the group for a while. He was always colourless in a group of colours; Akamatsu (which means red pine), Oumi (blue sea), Shirane (white root), and Kurono (black field), while his name means ‘to build’. Essentially this is a novel about friendship, rejection, isolation and the psychological scars that can be caused by others who never took that into account. There is a whole other side that can be explored but that would involve spoilers.

I had a rocky start with Haruki Murakami; the first book I read was 1Q84 and lets face it, this is the worst place to begin. I was exposed to the world of Murakami with the awkward fetishes and magical realism but 1Q84 was ultimately a little clunky and way too big. Luckily I am a bit of a hipster and picked up What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and while I’m not a runner, I found it to be an interesting read. It wasn’t till I read Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World that I truly understood his brilliance. I still have a lot more to read but Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was a perfect next choice.

I have often heard people recommending beginning with Norwegian Wood because it is rooted in realism and I would like to think Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage would work as well. I obviously haven’t read Norwegian Wood yet but the idea of beginning with some of his realistic novels before getting into the magical realism and exploring the weirdness of Murakami’s brain is probably a good idea. His style is a little unusual but once you get an understanding of how his mind works you should be readying do dive into something fantastical.

What I have found reading Haruki Murakami is that he has a strong interest in both the conscious and the subconscious. His books explore the complexities of the mind and how different situations have a psychological impact on a person. This is a really interesting theme and one that I am particularly interested in; if I knew that a long time ago, I am sure I would have been more willing to explore his works.  Even What I Talk About When I Talk About Running explored this theme and it was a memoir.

I do wish I didn’t begin with 1Q84 but after a few other books, I finally can say that Haruki Murakami has another fan. I am keen to read all his other books; both fiction and non-fiction. There is something enthralling about the way a mind works and I really like the way that Murakami explores that. While Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was far from perfect, there are some weird and awkward moments in the writing that I believe is synonymous with his writing style but I found this a captivating read. I have reserved Norwegian Wood at the library and I am hoping to read that one very soon.


Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Posted April 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Literary Fiction, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki MurakamiTitle: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Alfred Birnbaum
Published: Vintage, 1985
Pages: 400
Genres: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

In the future, Tokyo remains the technology powerhouse it is today. With the major advances in technology, data security has become more valuable; problem is all codes can be broken if you know how. The Calcutec is a human data processor/encryption system who has been trained to use his bio-algorithms implant and subconscious for encryption. A new comer to a strange, isolated walled town known as “The End of the World” is assigned a job as a dream reader. As he finds acceptance within the town, his mind begins to fade; or has it only been suppressed?

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World tells the story of a split between two parallel narratives from different worlds. The consciousness and the unconscious mind; “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” refers to The Calcutec’s life as an encryption machine while “The End of the World” is his subconscious world. The two stories are told in alternating chapters as the reader slowly discovers the mysteries connecting these two worlds together. Hard-Boiled Wonderland is a homage to Raymond Chandler and hard-boiled fiction, as well as to science fiction and cyberpunk and “The End of the World” has similarities to Franz Kafka’s The Castle.

The major theme within this book is the nature of consciousness; both narratives are constructed around this general idea. While the odd numbered chapters refer to the conscious mind and the even-numbered chapters the subconscious, it is interesting to note they link together with similar themes; for example the song Danny Boy appeared in consecutive chapters. Even characters are shared between consciousnesses; the object of the narrator’s desire, the librarian is a perfect example of this.

Beyond that, the concept of subconscious being able to be controlled or shaped plays out in the entire book. This brings me to another major theme within this novel; the morality of science. The scientific experiments been done on the narrators mind in the attempt to separate the conscious and the subconscious in an attempt create more secure encryptions is an interesting topic. It reminds me a little of Frankenstein when it looks at the dangers of science and its moral implications. The Professor’s experiment killed about twenty people and while he feels remorse for the tragedy he also feels like it was the right choice in the name of progress.

While there are many more themes that would be interesting to explore I wanted to look at character. In both narratives there are no names for any of the characters, each is referred to by their occupation or a general description; from the Narrator, known as The Calcutec, the Librarian, the Old Man, the Professor, the Big Guy and the Chubby Girl. I never really payed too much attention to this while reading the book but referring to a girl as “the Chubby Girl” did bother me; it wasn’t till the very end that I was bothered by the lot. I couldn’t understand why this book was so frustratingly vague and incomplete with character and setting descriptions, I don’t know what the reason behind it would be, except for maybe removing any obstructions that might hinder the understanding of the novel.

Even the narrative is offering a very limited view of what is actually happening but slowly most of the mysteries do become clearer but the entire focus was on the subtext of this book. This wasn’t meant to be about great characters or scenes; this was all about exploring the themes as a way to get Haruki Murakami’s thoughts on the subject across. In a sense, this is what Murakami excels at; if it wasn’t for these well thought out ideas his books would just be odd and weird. This is my second Murakami novel and the first one I’ve actually enjoyed.

I’ve finally discovered what makes Haruki Murakami an author to take notice of; I didn’t find the same thing with 1Q84, I thought it was long winded and repetitive but Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World really worked for me. I have some issues with the novel, obviously the vagueness was one of the major ones, but overall this was a really interesting journey for me.


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Posted January 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki MurakamiTitle: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Philip Gabriel
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2007
Pages: 180
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Haruki Murakami where he talks about his interest in running. From running for pleasure to competing in over twenty marathons and an ultramarathon. Part training log, travelogue and reminiscence, this is a memoir of Murakami’s passion for running.

Now I’m not a runner and I don’t think I ever will be but I like to read about people being passionate about a topic and although this was brief, the passion was not in short supply. Most people know Haruki Murakami for his postmodern novels which include Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84. This is an unusual memoir, not just because it only focuses on one interest, but because I don’t think any other authors have written something like it.

The book tries to explore why he is so passionate about running and why he runs. For a non runner reading this book for its memoir aspects, it’s just interesting the approach he takes. It’s like seeing Murakami’s thought process on the page; not offering tips or anything, just being nostalgic about past runs or discussing plans for a marathon or just tracking his daily runs.

For me this is nothing special, but for people obsessed with running this would be an interesting read. I read just to see the passion he has towards running, as well as the fact it was mentioned in Metroland and I want to be a book hipster. I was surprised how well this worked, like a stream of conscious of Haruki Murakami’s love of running.


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Posted July 28, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction, Magical Realism / 0 Comments

1Q84 by Haruki MurakamiTitle: 1Q84 (Goodreads)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Translator: Jay Rubin, Philip Gabriel
Narrator: Allison Hiroto, Marc Vietor, Mark Boyett
Published: Knopf Doubleday, 2011
Pages: 925
Genres: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

This book is a bit too excessive; like most other people I think it could have had at least 300 pages removed without affecting the story. At times it gets really repetitive; like the author has thought the reader has already forgetting information about Aomame or Tengo. 1Q84 is the story of two people who meet and fall in love in school and then, many years later spend the entirety of the book trying to find each other again. As the story obviously isn’t as simple as that; it is fair to say it is very weird and probably what you expect from Haruki Murakami. I’ve not read anything else from him and I don’t pretend to understand the genre Magical Realism but this book was indeed somewhat enjoyable to read.

I mentioned that this book was everything you’d expect from Murakami and that I’ve never read anything by him before. But I do know of his works and I’ve seen the movie adaptation of Norwegian Wood so I had a decent idea of what I was getting into. But I didn’t except what I got. As the story unfolds and you get a better understanding of Aomame and Tengo, you can’t help but love these two characters with all their flaws, quirks and of course their personalities.

While this book was way too long, I am very glad to have read this book and to dive into the parallel world of 1Q84. I do feel more of a book snob for reading this and I think I will have to read some more from this weird author. For people looking for a great but odd story about two people and have a lot of time to spare, then I would suggest this is the book for you.


Confessions of a Reader

Posted May 4, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 6 Comments

While most people know my story, I wasn’t much of a reader until a few years ago when something clicked and I started reading and wanting to read almost everything in sight. I’ve been playing catch up with everyone else for the past few years. While I claim to be a bibliophile, I’ve still got a lot to catch up on. My name is Michael and these are by reading confessions:

I haven’t borrowed a book from the library in about a year While I love libraries and my local librarians are awesome people, I think I like books too much to borrow them. I don’t think I would want to return them. Plus I’m now more of an e-reader and still waiting for a digital local library.

Short story collections often bore me: While it’s great to read some quick stories, when reading a whole book full of short stories – especially on the one topic – it often gets boring and becomes a struggle. I think the fact that I read it straight through instead of a little at a time is my main problem.

I still groan at the thought of reading some genres: While I do try to keep an open mind to new and recommended book, I tend to avoid or put off reading some genres. I’m not sure if this is simply because I haven’t experienced enough good books in these genres but fantasy, magic realism, romance and paranormal romance novels never seem appealing.

Large books often scare me:  I will try to read them but I don’t like the idea of investing in a long story when I can read two or three books instead. I’ve written a post previously about this same issue.

I’ve never read Jane Austin:  I probably should. I know she is one of the most famous writers but I have so many other books to read and none of her books really interest me.

I read literary books with the hope to look cool: Even though I’ve realised that I’ve enjoyed most of them. My main motivations for reading books like 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and The Shipping News by Annie Proulx in an effort to look more like a literary elitist.

I rarely complete a book series: I can only think of two book series that I’ve read completely through, most of the time I read one of the books just to test the series out and move onto more interesting novels. I haven’t finished The Hunger Game series and I only read the first two books from the Song of Ice and Fire series to keep in front of the Game of Thrones TV series.

Audiobooks have replaced my music in the car and while I do work or exercise. I like being able to listen through a novel during those times where I’m doing mundane tasks. I often have an audiobook and an ebook on the go at the same time. It’s surprisingly easy to read two books at the same times if one of them is an audiobook.

I’m addicted to Goodreads: This is an effect of my reading and a need to keep a record of all the books I’ve read and want to read. I’m now part of a few groups on Goodreads and spend most of my work day on the site.

I own multiple copies of Frankenstein and even a few other books. I love Frankenstein and I need more copies of it, so I can have a copy of the book in every part of the house. Most multiple copies of books are by accident but when it comes to Frankenstein it was intentional.

I’m sure I can keep going with my confessions but I think I will stop with those ten. I would love to know what you would confess about your reading habits.