Murakami Does Kafkaesque: The Two Components of Kafkaesque Writing

Franz Kafka was one of the most influential writers of the early twentieth century, skillfully depicting people’s feeling of anxiety-ridden alienation in an incomprehensible and indifferent world in his poems and short stories. His writing was unique from the writing of any other author before him, and soon required the creation of a new adjective, Kafkaesque, to adequately and briefly describe it. Kafka’s works are unique from earlier literature because of his technical writing style. The technical writing style refers to the literary devices used in the work, such as etaphors, stream of consciousness narrative, and ambiguity.

It is difficult for writers to recapture the Kafkaesque feeling of alienation felt when reading in The Metamorphosis, or Resolutions, or other Kafka poems and short stories, but one author in particular has risen to the task. In Kafka on the Shore, Murakami uses literary devices seen in Kafka’s writing to make the novel Kafkaesque. Murakami uses metaphors throughout the book to mimic Franz Kafka’s technical writing style. One of the most significant metaphors in Kafka on the Shore is the imile, “Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions… There’s no sun, no moon, no direction, no sense of time.

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Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bone. “l This simile sets the preface for and ambiguous Journey with twists of fate laced with fear-provoking threat of something powerful and uncontrollable “… [Cutting] through flesh like a thousand razor blades. “2 This simile is very similar to one used in Kafka’s poem The Trees, which begins with “For we are like the trunks of tree in the snow,” then gives an explanation f how the tree trunks seem movable in the snow but are not because the roots under the snow holds the tree in place, but then ends with, “But see, that too, is only apparent. 3 The reference to nature and the allusion to white particles-either swirling sand or snow on the ground-obstructing the perception of reality is too strikingly similar to go unnoticed. The stream of consciousness style Murakami uses to show the thoughts of the boy we know as Kafka is very similar to Kafka’s trademark usage of stream of consciousness writing seen in The Transformation, as well as in Unhappiness, The Passenger, A Stray Glance from the Window, and many other Kafka poems and short stories.

In chapter eleven, the boy wakes up in Sakura’s house and immediately begins and endless flow of thoughts. He writes a memo to Sakura to thank her for helping him and allowing him to stay the night, but he is easily distracted from the task at hand. “Someone in the neighborhood’s got their TV on at full volume… The people on the show all yelling at each other, and the commercials Just as loud and obnoxious. “4 Likewise, Kafka shows readers the thoughts of Gregor in The Transformation, for readers to gain sympathy for him, and also to see life from his perspective.

Even when Gregor sees that he has been transformed into a monstrous insect, some ot his tirst thoughts are about the dreary weather outside, and t about the adversities of his Job as a traveling salesman. “… I’m saddled with the strain of all this traveling, the anxiety about train connections, the bad irregular meals… The devil take it all! “5 Even after months of being a bug, Gregor’s human thoughts easily distract him from what he is doing. “The family was completely bsorbed by the violin-playing; the lodgers, however… soon withdrew to the window, muttering amongst themselves… hile his father anxiously watched them. “6 As Gregor is focused on watching his family and the lodgers, he inches forward from his room and shows himself to the lodgers. Gregor and the boy named Kafka both have impulsive thoughts, and in these particular examples, both of them were even distracted from their tasks- for Kafka to write his letter to Sakura and for Gregor to stay out of sight. After comparing Kafka on the Shore to some of Franz Kafka’s works, t is easy to see that Murakami was successful in matching Kafka’s technical writing style.

Kafka on the Shore maintains an ambiguous tone throughout the novel, which is the keystone characteristic of Franz Kafka’s writing. Ambiguity and purposeful vagueness function to set an eery tone and disorient the audience. Murakami’s novel begins with Kafka running away from his father’s home to Shikoku, but little is known about the motive for the boys desire to go there, aside from that fact that he feels, “… the more I look at the map-actually every time I study it-the more I feel Shikokku tugging at me. 7 This unexplained urge is reminiscent of the speaker’s sudden impulsive desire to talk a walk in Kafka’s The Sudden Walk.

The speaker explains, “When you seem finally to have made up your mind to spend the evening at home… you get to your feet in a sudden fit of restlessness… “8 The beginning of the novel also includes a series of interrogations surrounding a mysterious event Nakata’s childhood that resulted in him losing his memory and gaining the ability to talk to cats. The information is given to the reader piecemeal, never giving the reader a full picture. Also, the interview forces the readers to uestion the reliability the testimonies, as even the interviewer had to Judge the reliability of his subjects.

When describing Doctor Nakazawa, the doctor who first examined the unconscious children, the interviewer concluded that, “Behind his glasses his eyes have a very sharp, alert look, and his memory seems reliable. “9 A less reliable source is the teacher of the children involved in the accident, Setsuko Okamochi, who, “… responded to the questions accurately and honestly,” but, “As she searched her memory she grew very tense at times,”10 showing that she struggled to emember everything correctly. Franz Kafka was a master of writing stories that hold the accounts of unreliable speakers.

Nakata, the last child to regain consciousness and was severely affected by the experience, is also an unreliable source, as he talks in the third person and converses with cats. “There’s so much we [humans] have to remember, it is a pain. Nakata has to remember the of the Governor, bus numbers… Nakata’s not very bright, you see. I wasn’t always this way, but I was in an accident and IVe been dumb ever since. Nakata can’t write. Or read a book or newspaper. “11 In fact, as he recalls, his father was a professor at a university who specialized in the “theery of fine ants. The questionable reliability of characters adds to the confusion ot the novel, Just like the contusion experienced in The Transtormation. Gregor wakes up as an enormous bug, and yet he only worries and complains about his work situation. “If I didn’t have to hold back for the sake of my parents I’d have given the chief a piece of my mind. “12 Like Nakata, Gregor does not seem to be completely sane or reliable, which is one more not-so-coincidental resemblance between Kafka’s and Murakami’s stories.

Not only is the reliability of the sources in question during the interviews, but many of the details were left anonymous to further the ambiguous and mysterious tone. For example, the teacher interviewed was, “… in charge of the fourth-grade B class at the public school in [deleted] Town, [deleted] County. “13 The poem, Resolutions, uses the same tactic to create a sense of mystery. The poem involves the speaker advising the audience to, “… give A. an enthusiastic welcome if he comes, tolerate B. amicably in my room, swallow down everything that is said at C. ‘s place in long draughts… 4 Murakami and Kafka use different symbols, but both the letters and the more forward notice of deleted word serve the show evidence that the audience is not receiving all of the details. It is apparent that each of the techniques Murakami used to make Kafka on the Shore ambiguous, including unexplained or unknown motives, questionable reliability, and removed details replaced with visual representations, were taken from stories and poems written by Kafka with the intention of matching Kafka’s Kafkaesque style. Kafka on the Shore exhibits Kafka’s style and writing techniques in order to make he novel Kafkaesque.

Murakami achieves this by implementing ambiguity, stream of consciousness narratives, and metaphors, all influenced by those found in Kafka’s works. Murakami tried, and succeeded, to depict his protagonist’s confusing and winding coming of age Journey in a way that captures the isolated, complicated, and surreal essence of Kafka. Bibliography: Kafka, Franz. The Transformation and Other Stories: Works Published During Kafka’s Lifetime. Trans. Malcolm Pasley. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. Murakami, Haruki. Kafka On The Shore. New York: Vintage, 2005. Print.


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