Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts down, Andrew. I appreciate the effort.
I also found the dreams and mystery at the beginning of the book fascinating. While I didn't particularly like this book, I'm not forgetting about Murakami. A number of his other books sound worth reading, and I look forward to trying them. I guess I just didn't understand the Determinist bit of the story. Kafka overcomes what he is fated to do by deciding to do it? How is that making a free decision. He knows he has to do evil so he chooses to do evil and that sets him free? This is what I don't get.
Thanks, Jeremy. I don't think I 'get' the determinism/free choice thing either, but by the same token, I don't 'get' the tension of predestination/free will in Christian theology either. To paraphrase Professor Gopnik's cheating/not-cheating student in A Serious Man
, maybe I'm willing to embrace the mystery.
Then again, to judge by the dialogue between Kafka and his sister/not-sister in the rape dream, I don't think he's exactly set free by his violent choices, even if we don't have a satisfying closure/wages-of-sin ending to the story. She indicates, too, in one of their phone conversations that Kafka is existing in a very perilous state by associating with all of the strange, other-worldly people at the library.
I do get that the crimes he commits in his dreams are reflective of the evil every single one of us is capable of. Our hearts and minds and imaginations are full of darkness, and therefore we often are guilty of imagining or fantasizing about evil in ways that - even if they didn't lead to action - still reflect upon our moral state. It is confronting this that I was looking forward to as I kept reading the book, and it was how the book dealt with it that left me with the impression of emptiness.
I think I see what you mean here, and perhaps this is the source of some of my own dissatisfaction with the last hundred or so pages. Despite my praise of Kafka
here, those last 100 pages took as long and probably considerably longer to finish than all of the preceding pages.
If I'm remembering correctly from the other Murakami books that I've read, his stories have a definite ending to them, even if they're not tidy or overly satisfying.
I'm willing to admit my impression of the book being amoral wasn't quite right. The characters do know right from wrong in this story. One of the reasons I liked Nakata was his ability to act to prevent wrong in spite of himself. I got the impression in the first place because Kafka's wrong choices didn't seem to matter at the end. But I could just be misunderstanding the ending.
Perhaps this is grace at play in Murakami's world, even if he wouldn't use that theologically-laden term. Towards the beginning of the book, one of the characters cites a Buddhist proverb about blessing/meaning found in chance encounters, and in a way, it's Kafka's chance encounter with his sister/non-sister on the bus that keeps him grounded and continues to extend kindness towards him, in spite of his neglect of her and then his horrific mistreatment of her in the dream.
I'm interested in the forgiveness element to the story - could you explain this more?
I guess I was thinking of my work with traumatized individuals or those who have suffered horrible losses early in life, whose experiences have left them numb intrapsychically and detached in relationships with others (or just utterly pissed off with the world and themselves). They may feel like the world's toughest 15- or 50-year old, but most people see them as cold, walled-off, or angry. Doing the hard work of deep, meaningful forgiveness - coming to terms with the emotions and consequences of their early experiences, letting go of bitterness and resentment - frees them to feel deep emotion and connect with others, free to feel affection, tenderness, and grief - free to smile and cry again.
Sorry if this is a bit rushed, but I wanted to use a bit of free time in a fairly busy week ahead to post a response to your comments.
Edited by Andrew, 25 April 2011 - 10:03 PM.