Kafka on the Shore

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Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ, 2002) is a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

Quotes[edit]

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.
It'd take a week to go into the whole thing, all the details. So I'll just give the main point.
  • 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.
    • Chapter One
  • 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.
    • Chapter One
  • On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library. It'd take a week to go into the whole thing, all the details. So I'll just give the main point. On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library.
    • Chapter One
  • I'm the lonely voyager standing on deck, and she's he sea. The sky is a blanket of grey, merging with the gray sea off on the horizon. It's hard to tell the difference between sea and sky. Between voyager and sea. Between reality and the workings of the heart.
    • Chapter Three
  • "My cell phone number," she says with a wry expression. "I'm staying at my friend's place for a while buy if you ever feel like sseeing somebody, give me a call. We can go out for a bite or whatever. Don't be a stranger, okay? 'Even chance meetings'... how does the rest of that go?" "'Are the results of karma.'"
    "Right, right", she says. But what does that mean?
    "That things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest evens there's no such thing as coincidence."
    • Chapter Five
  • "According to Aristophanes in Plato's The Banquet, in the ancient world of legend there were three types of people.
    In ancient times people weren't simply male or female, but one of three types: male/male, male/female or female/female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people. Everyone was happy with this arrangement and never really gave it much thought. But then God took a knife and cut everyone in half, right down the middle. So after that the world was divided just into male and female, the upshot being that people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing half."
    • Chapter Five, Oshima
  • I pay the entrance fee at the desk, no questions asked, and get a key to a locker. After changing into shorts and a T-shirt in he locker room, I do some stretching exercises. As my muscles relax so do I. I'm safe inside this container called me. With a little click, the outlines of this being - me - fit right inside and are locked nearly away. Just the way I like it. I'm where I belong.
    • Chapter Seven
  • I stare at this ceaseless, rushing crowd and imagine a time a hundred years from now. In a hundred years everybody here - me included - will have disappeared from the face of the earth and turned into ashes or dust. A weird thought, but everything in front of me starts to seem unreal, like a gust of wind could blow it all away
    • Chapter Seven
  • "I think what Kafka does is give a purely mechanical explanation of that complex machine in the story, as sort of a substitute for explaining the situation we're in. What I mean is ... " I have to give it some more thought. "What I mean is, that's his own device for explaining the kind of lives we lead. Not by talking about our situation, but by talking about the details of the machine."
    • Chapter Seven, Kafka Tamura
  • "The term "spirit projection " sprang to mind. Are you familiar with it? Japanese folk tales are full of this sort of thing, where the soul temporarily leaves the body and goes off a great distance to take care of some vital task and then returns to reunite with the body. The sort of vengeful spirits that populate The Tale of Genji may be something similar. The notion of the soul not just leaving the body at death but-assuming the will is strong enough -also being able to separate from the body of the living is probably an idea that took root in Japan in ancient times. Of course there's no scientific proof of this, and I hesitate to even raise the idea."
    • Chapter Eight,
  • Nakata let his body relax, switched off his mind, allowing things to flow through him. This was natural for him, something he'd done ever since he was a child, without a second thought. Before long the borders of his consciousness fluttered around, just like the butterflies. Beyond these borders lay a dark abyss. Occasionally his consciousness would fly over the border and hover over that dizzying, black crevass. But Nakata wasn't afraid of the darkness or how deep it was. And why should he be? That bottomless world of darkness, that weighty silence and chaos, was an old friend, a part of him already. Nakata understood this well. In that world there was no writing, no days of the week, no scary Governor, no opera, no BMWs. No scissors, no tall hats. On the other hand, there was also no delicious eel, no tasty bean-jam buns. Everything is there, but there are no parts. Since there are no parts, there's no need to replace one thing with another. No need to remove anything, or add anything. You don't have to think about difficult things, just let yourself soak it all in. For Nakata, nothing could be better.
    • Chapter Ten
  • It's hard to tell the difference between sea and sky, between voyager and sea. Between reality and the workings of the heart.
  • "Chance encounters are what keep us going."
As I already explaned, I don't have any form. I'm a conceptual metaphysical object.
Kid's hearts are malleable , but once they gel it's hard to get them back the way they were. Next to impossible, in most cases.
People soon get tired of things that aren't boring, but not of what is boring.
  • As I already explaned, I don't have any form. I'm a conceptual metaphysical object.
    • Colonel Sanders in Kafka on the Shore
  • Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through, is now like something from the distant past. We're so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology ... But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone. And for me, what happened in the woods that day is one of these.
    • Chapter 12
  • I stood there for a while, holding Nakata tight in my arms, feeling like I wanted to die or disappear. Just over the horizon the violence of war went on, with countless people dying. I no longer had any idea what was right and what was wrong. Was I really seeing the real world? Was the sound of birds I was hearing? I found myself alone in the woods, totally confused, blood flowing from freely from my womb. I was angry, afraid , embarrassed-all of these rolled into one. I cried quietly, without making a sound.
    • Chapter 12
  • Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they're able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they're treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kid's hearts are malleable , but once they gel it's hard to get them back the way they were. Next to impossible, in most cases.
    • Chapter 12
  • People soon get tired of things that aren't boring, but not of what is boring.
    • Chapter 13
  • Works that have a certain imperfection to them have an appeal for that you're attracted to Soseki's The Miner. There's something in it that draws you in, more than more fully realized novels like Kokoro or Sanshiro. You discover something about that work that tugs at your heart-or maybe we should say that work discovers you.
    • Chapter 13, Schubert
  • Now I know exactly how dangerous the forest can be. And I hope I never forget it. Just like Crow said, the world's filled with things I don't know about. All the plants and trees there, for instance. 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, prehistoric, 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.
    • Chapter 15
  • After a simple dinner I go out on the porch and gaze up at the stars twinkling above, the random scattering of millions of stars. Even in a planetarium you wouldn't find this many. Some of them look really big and distinct, like if you reached your hand out intently you could touch them. The whole thing is breathtaking. Not just beautiful, though -the stars are like the trees in the forest, alive and breathing. And they're watching me. What I've done up till now, what I'm going to do-they know it all. Nothing gets past their watchful eyes. As I sit there under the shining night sky, again a violent fear takes hold of me. My heart's pounding a mile a minute, and I can barely breathe. All these millions of stars looking down on me, and I've never given them more than a passing thought before. Not just stars-how many other things haven't I I10ticecl in the world, things I know nothing about? I suddenly feel helpless, completely powerless. And 1 know I'll never outrun that awful feeling.
    • Chapter 15
  • When a war starts people are forced to become soldiers. They carry guns and go to the front lines and have to kill soldiers on the other side. As many as they possibly can. Nobody cares whether you like killing other people or not. It's just something you have to do. Otherwise you're the one who gets killed." Johnnie Walker pointed his index finger at Nakata's chest. "Bang!" he said. "Human history in a nutshell."
    • Chapter 16
  • "No such luck. " He smiles. "For better or for worse, I don't have that kind of power. If I sound like I'm always predicting ominous things, it's because I'm a pragmatist. I use deductive reasoning to generalize, and I suppose this sometimes winds up sounding like unlucky prophecies. You know why? Because reality's just the accumulation of ominous prophecies come to life. All you have to do is open a newspaper on any given day and weigh the good news versus the bad news, and you'll see what I mean."
    • Chapter 17, Oshima
  • I've experienced all kinds of discrimination," Oshima says. "Only people who've been discriminated against can really know how much it hurts. Each person feels the pain in his own way, each has his own scars. So I think I'm as concerned about fairness and justice as anybody. But what disgusts me even more are people who have no imagination. The kind T. S. Eliot calls hollow men. People who fill up that lack of imagination with heartless bits of straw, not even aware of what they're doing. Callous people who throw a lot of empty words at you, trying to force you to do what you don't want to. Like that lovely pair we just met." He sighs and twirls the long slender pencil in his hand. "Gays, lesbians, straights, feminists, fascist pigs, communists, Hare Krishnas-none of them bother me. I don't care what banner they raise. But what I can't stand are hollow people. When I'm with them I just can't bear it, and wind up saying things I shouldn't. With those women I should've just let it slide, or else called Miss Saeki and let her handle it. She would have given them a smile and smoothed things over. But I just can't do that. I say things I shouldn't, do things I shouldn't do. I can't control myself. That's one of my weak points.
    • Chapter 19, Oshima
  • You build up relationships like that one after another and before you know it you have meaning. The more connections, the deeper the meaning. Doesn't matter if it's eel, or rice bowls, or grilled fish, whatever. Get it?
    • Chapter 20
  • In the depths of our crater lake, everything is silent. The volcano's been extinct for ages. Layer upon layer of solitude, like folds of soft mud. The little bit of light that manages to penetrate to the depths lights up the surroundings like the remains of some faint, distant memory. At these depths there's no sign of life. I don't know how long she looks at me -not at me, maybe, but at the spot where I am. Time's rules don't apply here. Time expands, then contracts, all in tune with the stirrings of the heart.
    • Chapter 23, Kafka Temura
  • "The world of the grotesque is the darkness within us. Well before Freud and Jung shined a light on the workings of the subconscious, this correlation between darkness and our subconscious, these two forms of darkness, was obvious to people. It wasn't a metaphor, even. If you trace it back further, it wasn't even a correlation. Until Edison invented the electric light, most of the world was totally covered in darkness. The physical darkness outside and the inner darkness of the soul were mixed together, with no boundary separating the two. They were directly linked. Like this."
    • Chapter 23
All you're sure of is that you're in a delicate position. Delicate-and dangerous. You're pulled along, a part of it, unable to pin down the principles of prophecy, or of logic.
  • "You still don't get it, do you? We're talking about a revelation here," Colonel Sanders said, clicking his tongue. "A revelation leaps over the borders of the everyday. A life without revelation is no life at all. What you need to do is move from reason that observes to reason that acts. That's what's critical. Do you have any idea what I'm talking about, you gold-plated whale of a dunce?"
    • Chapter 28, Colonel Sanders
  • Where does your responsibility begin here? Wiping away the nebula from your sight, you struggle to find where you really are. You're trying to find the direction of the flow, struggling to hold on to the axis of time. But you can't locate the borderline separating dream and reality. Or even the boundary between what's real and what's possible. All you're sure of is that you're in a delicate position. Delicate-and dangerous. You're pulled along, a part of it, unable to pin down the principles of prophecy, or of logic. Like when a river overflows, washing over a town, all road signs have sunk beneath the waves. And all you can see are the anonymous roofs of the sunken houses.
    • Chapter 29, A Boy Named Crow
  • "Listen- God only exists in people's minds. Especially in Japan, God's always been kind of a flexible concept. Look at what happened after the war. Douglas MacArthur ordered the divine emperor to quit being God, and he did, making a speech saying he was just an ordinary person. So after 1946 he wasn't God anymore. That's what Japanese gods are like-they can be tweaked and adjusted. Some American chomping on a cheap pipe gives the order and presto change-o - God's no longer God. A very postmodern kind of thing. If you think God's there, He is. If you don't, He isn't. And if that's what God's like, I wouldn't worry about it."
    • Chapter 30, Colonel Sanders
  • "Listen, every object's in flux. The Earth, time, concepts, love, life, faith, justice, evil-they're all fluid and in transition. They don't stay in one form or in one place forever. The whole universe is like some big FedEx box."
    • Chapter 30, Colonel Sanders
There’s no war that will end all wars.
In everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.
  • Anyone who falls in love is searching for missing pieces of themselves. So anyone who's in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It's like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven't seen in a long time. It's just a natural feeling. You're not the person who discovered that feeling, so don't go trying to patent it, okay?
  • There’s no war that will end all wars.
  • “It's like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.”
  • “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. 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 awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library."
  • "In everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”
  • Closing your eyes isn't going to change anything. Nothing's going to disappear just because you can't see what's going on. In fact, things will even be worse the next time you open your eyes. That's the kind of world we live in. Keep your eyes wide open. Only a coward closes his eyes. Closing your eyes and plugging up your ears won't make time stand still.
  • Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe.

External links[edit]

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