Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

  Kafka on the Shore

  Haruki Murakami

  Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

  This Is a Borzoi Book Published by Alfred A. Knopf

  Translation copyright © 2005 by Haruki Murakami

  Title page art: Kumamoto © 2004 by Iris Weinstein

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American

  Copyright Conventions.

  Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf,

  a division of Random House, Inc., New York,

  and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

  Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.


  Originally published in Japan in two volumes as Umibe no Kafuka

  by Shinchosha, Tokyo, in 2002.

  Copyright © 2002 by Haruki Murakami.

  Excerpt from Elektra is from Paul Roche's translation of the play.

  Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, business organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author's use of names of actual persons (living or dead), places, and characters are incidental to the purposes of the plot, and are not intended to change the entirely fictional character of the work or to disparage any company or its products or services. This book has not been prepared, approved, or licensed by any persons or characters named in the text, their successors, or related corporate entities.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Murakami, Haruki, (Umibe no Kafuka. English)

  Kafka on the shore / Haruki Murakami

  translated by Philip Gabriel.

  p. cm.

  ISBN 1-4000-4366-2

  I. Gabriel, J. Philip. II. Title.

  PL8S6. U673U48 2005

  89S.6'3S-dc22 2004048907

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  Published January 24, 2005

  Reprinted Seven Times

  Ninth Printing, December 2005

  The Boy Named Crow

  "So you're all set for money, then?" the boy named Crow asks in his typical sluggish voice. The kind of voice like when you've just woken up and your mouth still feels heavy and dull. But he's just pretending. He's totally awake. As always.

  I nod.

  "How much?"

  I review the numbers in my head. "Close to thirty-five hundred in cash, plus some money I can get from an ATM. I know it's not a lot, but it should be enough. For the time being."

  "Not bad," the boy named Crow says. "For the time being."

  I give him another nod.

  "I'm guessing this isn't Christmas money from Santa Claus."

  "Yeah, you're right," I reply.

  Crow smirks and looks around. "I imagine you've started by rifling drawers, am I right?"

  I don't say anything. He knows whose money we're talking about, so there's no need for any long-winded interrogations. He's just giving me a hard time.

  "No matter," Crow says. "You really need this money and you're going to get it—beg, borrow, or steal. It's your father's money, so who cares, right? Get your hands on that much and you should be able to make it. For the time being. But what's the plan after it's all gone? Money isn't like mushrooms in a forest—it doesn't just pop up on its own, you know. You'll need to eat, a place to sleep. One day you're going to run out."

  "I'll think about that when the time comes," I say.

  "When the time comes," Crow repeats, as if weighing these words in his hand.

  I nod.

  "Like by getting a job or something?"

  "Maybe," I say.

  Crow shakes his head. "You know, you've got a lot to learn about the world. Listen—what kind of job could a fifteen-year-old kid get in some far-off place he's never been to before? You haven't even finished junior high. Who do you think's going to hire you?"

  I blush a little. It doesn't take much to make me blush.

  "Forget it," he says. "You're just getting started and I shouldn't lay all this depressing stuff on you. You've already decided what you're going to do, and all that's left is to set the wheels in motion. I mean, it's your life. Basically you gotta go with what you think is right."

  That's right. When all is said and done, it is my life.

  "I'll tell you one thing, though. You're going to have to get a lot tougher if you want to make it."

  "I'm trying my best," I say.

  "I'm sure you are," Crow says. "These last few years you've gotten a whole lot stronger. I've got to hand it to you."

  I nod again.

  "But let's face it—you're only fifteen," Crow goes on. "Your life's just begun and there's a ton of things out in the world you've never laid eyes on. Things you never could imagine."

  As always, we're sitting beside each other on the old sofa in my father's study.

  Crow loves the study and all the little objects scattered around there. Now he's toying with a bee-shaped glass paperweight. If my father was at home, you can bet Crow would never go anywhere near it.

  "But I have to get out of here," I tell him. "No two ways around it."

  "Yeah, I guess you're right." He places the paperweight back on the table and links his hands behind his head. "Not that running away's going to solve everything. I don't want to rain on your parade or anything, but I wouldn't count on escaping this place if I were you. No matter how far you run. Distance might not solve anything."

  The boy named Crow lets out a sigh, then rests a fingertip on each of his closed eyelids and speaks to me from the darkness within.

  "How about we play our game?" he says.

  "All right," I say. I close my eyes and quietly take a deep breath.

  "Okay, picture a terrible sandstorm," he says. "Get everything else out of your head."

  I do what he says, get everything else out of my head. I forget who I am, even.

  I'm a total blank. Then things start to surface. Things that—as we sit here on the old leather sofa in my father's study—both of us can see.

  "Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions," Crow says.

  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.

  And that's exactly what I do. I imagine a white funnel stretching up vertically like a thick rope. My eyes are closed tight, hands cupped over my ears, so those fine grains of sand can't blow inside me. The sandstorm draws steadily closer. I can feel the air pressing on my skin. It really is going to swallow me up.

  The boy called Crow softly rests a hand on my shoulder, and with that the storm vanishes.

  "From now on—no matter what—you've got to be the world's toughest fifteen-year-old. That's the only way you're going to survive. And in order to do that, you've got to figure out what it means to be tough. You following me?"

  I keep my eyes closed and don't reply. I just want to sink off into sleep like this, his hand on my shoulder. I hear the faint flutter of wings.

"You're going to be the world's toughest fifteen-year-old," Crow whispers as I try to fall asleep. Like he was carving the words in a deep blue tattoo on my heart.

  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.

  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.

  It sounds a little like a fairy tale. But it's no fairy tale, believe me. No matter what sort of spin you put on it.

  Chapter 1

  Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home. I take a small, old gold lighter—I like the design and feel of it—and a folding knife with a really sharp blade. Made to skin deer, it has a five-inch blade and a nice heft. Probably something he bought on one of his trips abroad. I also take a sturdy, bright pocket flashlight out of a drawer. Plus sky blue Revo sunglasses to disguise my age.

  I think about taking my father's favorite Sea-Dweller Oyster Rolex. It's a beautiful watch, but something flashy will only attract attention. My cheap plastic Casio watch with an alarm and stopwatch will do just fine, and might actually be more useful.

  Reluctantly, I return the Rolex to its drawer.

  From the back of another drawer I take out a photo of me and my older sister when we were little, the two of us on a beach somewhere with grins plastered across our faces. My sister's looking off to the side so half her face is in shadow and her smile is neatly cut in half. It's like one of those Greek tragedy masks in a textbook that's half one idea and half the opposite. Light and dark. Hope and despair. Laughter and sadness.

  Trust and loneliness. For my part I'm staring straight ahead, undaunted, at the camera.

  Nobody else is there at the beach. My sister and I have on swimsuits—hers a red floral-print one-piece, mine some baggy old blue trunks. I'm holding a plastic stick in my hand.

  White foam is washing over our feet.

  Who took this, and where and when, I have no clue. And how could I have looked so happy? And why did my father keep just that one photo? The whole thing is a total mystery. I must have been three, my sister nine. Did we ever really get along that well? I have no memory of ever going to the beach with my family. No memory of going anywhere with them. No matter, though—there is no way I'm going to leave that photo with my father, so I put it in my wallet. I don't have any photos of my mother. My father threw them all away.

  After giving it some thought I decide to take the cell phone with me. Once he finds out I've taken it, my father will probably get the phone company to cut off service.

  Still, I toss it into my backpack, along with the adapter. Doesn't add much weight, so why not. When it doesn't work anymore I'll just chuck it.

  Just the bare necessities, that's all I need. Choosing which clothes to take is the hardest thing. I'll need a couple sweaters and pairs of underwear. But what about shirts and trousers? Gloves, mufflers, shorts, a coat? There's no end to it. One thing I do know, though. I don't want to wander around some strange place with a huge backpack that screams out, Hey, everybody, check out the runaway! Do that and someone is sure to sit up and take notice. Next thing you know the police will haul me in and I'll be sent straight home. If I don't wind up in some gang first.

  Any place cold is definitely out, I decide. Easy enough, just choose the opposite—a warm place. Then I can leave the coat and gloves behind, and get by with half the clothes. I pick out wash-and-wear-type things, the lightest ones I have, fold them neatly, and stuff them in my backpack. I also pack a three-season sleeping bag, the kind that rolls up nice and tight, toilet stuff, a rain poncho, notebook and pen, a Walkman and ten discs—got to have my music—along with a spare rechargeable battery. That's about it. No need for any cooking gear, which is too heavy and takes up too much room, since I can buy food at the local convenience store.

  It takes a while but I'm able to subtract a lot of things from my list. I add things, cross them off, then add a whole other bunch and cross them off, too.

  My fifteenth birthday is the ideal time to run away from home. Any earlier and it'd be too soon. Any later and I would have missed my chance.

  During my first two years in junior high, I'd worked out, training myself for this day. I started practicing judo in the first couple years of grade school, and still went sometimes in junior high. But I didn't join any school teams. Whenever I had the time I'd jog around the school grounds, swim, or go to the local gym. The young trainers there gave me free lessons, showing me the best kind of stretching exercises and how to use the fitness machines to bulk up. They taught me which muscles you use every day and which ones can only be built up with machines, even the correct way to do a bench press. I'm pretty tall to begin with, and with all this exercise I've developed pretty broad shoulders and pecs. Most strangers would take me for seventeen. If I ran away looking my actual age, you can imagine all the problems that would cause.

  Other than the trainers at the gym and the housekeeper who comes to our house every other day—and of course the bare minimum required to get by at school—I barely talk to anyone. For a long time my father and I have avoided seeing each other. We live under the same roof, but our schedules are totally different. He spends most of his time in his studio, far away, and I do my best to avoid him.

  The school I'm going to is a private junior high for kids who are upper-class, or at least rich. It's the kind of school where, unless you really blow it, you're automatically promoted to the high school on the same campus. All the students dress neatly, have nice straight teeth, and are boring as hell. Naturally I have zero friends. I've built a wall around me, never letting anybody inside and trying not to venture outside myself. Who could like somebody like that? They all keep an eye on me, from a distance. They might hate me, or even be afraid of me, but I'm just glad they didn't bother me. Because I had tons of things to take care of, including spending a lot of my free time devouring books in the school library.

  I always paid close attention to what was said in class, though. Just like the boy named Crow suggested.

  The facts and techniques or whatever they teach you in class isn't going to be very useful in the real world, that's for sure. Let's face it, teachers are basically a bunch of morons. But you've got to remember this: you're running away from home. You probably won't have any chance to go to school anymore, so like it or not you'd better absorb whatever you can while you've got the chance. Become like a sheet of blotting paper and soak it all in. Later on you can figure out what to keep and what to unload.

  I did what he said, like I almost always do. My brain like a sponge, I focused on every word said in class and let it all sink in, figured out what it meant, and committed everything to memory. Thanks to this, I barely had to study outside of class, but always came out near the top on exams.

  My muscles were getting hard as steel, even as I grew more withdrawn and quiet.

  I tried hard to keep my emotions from showing so that no one—classmates and teachers alike—had a clue what I was thinking. Soon I'd be launched into the rough adult world, and I knew I'd have to be tougher than anybody if I wanted to survive.

  My eyes in the mirror are cold as a lizard's, my expression fixed and unreadable. I can't remember the last time I laughed or even showed a
hint of a smile to other people.

  Even to myself.

  I'm not trying to imply I can keep up this silent, isolated facade all the time.

  Sometimes the wall I've erected around me comes crumbling down. It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes, before I even realize what's going on, there I am—naked and defenseless and totally confused. At times like that I always feel an omen calling out to me, like a dark, omnipresent pool of water.

  A dark, omnipresent pool of water.

  It was probably always there, hidden away somewhere. But when the time comes it silently rushes out, chilling every cell in your body. You drown in that cruel flood, gasping for breath. You cling to a vent near the ceiling, struggling, but the air you manage to breathe is dry and burns your throat. Water and thirst, cold and heat—these supposedly opposite elements combine to assault you.

  The world is a huge space, but the space that will take you in—and it doesn't have to be very big—is nowhere to be found. You seek a voice, but what do you get? Silence.

  You look for silence, but guess what? All you hear over and over and over is the voice of this omen. And sometimes this prophetic voice pushes a secret switch hidden deep inside your brain.

  Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks.

  All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That's it. That's my heart.

  Before running away from home I wash my hands and face, trim my nails, swab out my ears, and brush my teeth. I take my time, making sure my whole body's well scrubbed. Being really clean is sometimes the most important thing there is. I gaze carefully at my face in the mirror. Genes I'd gotten from my father and mother—not that I have any recollection of what she looked like—created this face. I can do my best to not let any emotions show, keep my eyes from revealing anything, bulk up my muscles, but there's not much I can do about my looks. I'm stuck with my father's long, thick eyebrows and the deep lines between them. I could probably kill him if I wanted to—I'm sure strong enough—and I can erase my mother from my memory. But there's no way to erase the DNA they passed down to me. If I wanted to drive that away I'd have to get rid of me.

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