Saturday, February 7, 2009

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Last month I read "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami. I was inspired to pick it out because of a group I found on LibraryThing called Reading Globally. Each month they challenge you to read a book by an author from a different country and in January that country was Japan. This book is also on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

I thought it would be fun to join this group because most of my students are immigrants and refugees. I've had students from China, Somalia, Kenya, Burundi, Mexico, Iraq and America. I've also had a Native American student. I thought this could be another way to learn about their cultures, or maybe I could just recommend good books to them when they get older. I have never had a student from Japan, but my dad was stationed there during the Vietnam War.

I can't say that I learned too much about Japan from this book. I was surprised at how much the characters in the story liked to eat eel. Luckily no one ate whale! The story centers around a 15 year old boy who runs away from home so he can be himself. Another part of the story is about an old man who is mentally retarded but can talk to cats.

I really liked that it had this magical element to it. There were things that wouldn't happen in real life (or do they?!) which really made this book unique and fun to read.

It also had many riddles which I expected to be answered at the end and wrapped up neatly with a bow. Too bad for me -- there weren't any answers and I was left to my own devices.

I marked several pages because of lines I liked. One of my favorite passages was this:
I'd never imagined that trees could be so weird and unearthly. I mean, the only plants I've ever really seen or touched till now are the city kind--neatly trimmed and cared-for bushes and trees. But the ones here--the ones living here--are totally different. They have a physical power, their breath grazing any humans who might chance by, their gaze zeroing in on the intruder like they've spotted their prey. Like they have some dark, prehistroric, magical powers. Like deep-sea creatures rule the ocean depths, in the forest trees reign supreme. If it wanted to, the forest could reject me--or swallow me up whole. A healthy amount of fear and respect might be a good idea.

My favorite quote about life: There's only one kind of happiness, but misfortune comes in all shapes and sizes.

So thank you Reading Globally for getting me to try a new author. I will definitely read more books by Haruki Murakami. In February the challenge is a little different because you can pick a book from a continent instead of a country, and that continent is Africa. Yes, it's a continent Sarah. So since I DO have many African students in my class (most from Somalia) I am excited. I'm going to read "The White Giraffe" by Lauren St. John. She grew up in Zimbabwe. Which is a country.

This book also completes my Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge, as it is about One (or more) Person's Travel Experience.


Melissa said...

I have heard much about this, but have never read it. Maybe I should reconsider?

Oh, and Reading Globally sounds like a fun group... :)

stephanie said...

One of Murakami's novels is on my reading list. I am curious to see if I will like it.