A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

Kafka

“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.”

***

Anyone that has read a book or interview by Haruki Murakami knows how important music is to his voice and his writing. Kafka on the Shore is no different. Kafka on the Shore follows the lives of two people: Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata. Kafka is running away from home to escape an Oedipal-esque prophecy that his father predicts of him. Mr. Nakata can talk to cats, so  he is hired to search for a missing cat named Goma and ends up on a crazy journey. Both characters embark on long journeys with little idea of where they are going; instead, a lot of things happen to both, as passive actors in their own lives.

At one of the most climactic scenes (don’t worry, I won’t spoil the book for you), Kafka Tamura is listening to the final movement of his favorite symphony, and Murakami makes sure to describe the music as well as the story. You can almost hear the frenzied rise of the instruments with Kafka! Music equally affects the other characters of the book – Kafka and his friend Oshima have long discussions about music and meaning, while Hoshino becomes transformed through music.

I think in order to fully appreciate the novel, you have to understand Murakami’s writing philosophy. In an interview with the Paris Review, he says:

“You’ve read Raymond Chandler, of course. His books don’t really offer conclusions. He might say, He is the killer, but it doesn’t matter to me who did it. There was a very interesting episode when Howard Hawks made a picture of The Big Sleep. Hawks couldn’t understand who killed the chauffeur, so he called Chandler and asked, and Chandler answered, I don’t care! Same for me. Conclusion means nothing at all.”

Like listening to music, reading Kafka on the Shore is about the journey; it is the only thing that matters, the destination is a necessary consequence of traveling. Once I was able to comprehend this, I was able to let go a little and fully inhabit the world that Murakami has created.

***

Music is so prevalent here and acts as a guidepost through the book, telling you how far you’ve journeyed, so I created a playlist to listen to while reading Kafka on the Shore. Half of these songs were actually mentioned in the book, while the rest just seemed to fit the tone of the book. Please see the tracklist and link to the playlist below:

  1. Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Major, Schubert
  2. Crossroads, Cream
  3. Little Red Corvette, Prince
  4. In a Sentimental Mood, Duke Ellington
  5. (Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay, Otis Redding
  6. As Time Goes By, Eddie Haywood
  7. Visions of Johanna, Bob Dylan
  8. Dunes, Alabama Shakes
  9. Kid A, Radiohead
  10. The Bitter End, Placebo

Click here to launch Kafka on the Shore: A Playlist

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15 thoughts on “A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore

  1. Pingback: Adaptation: Kafka on the Shore | Like Bears to Honey

  2. Pingback: A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | Like Bears to Honey

  3. Kafka on the Shore was my first Murakami, and it remains my favorite. I have read it several times, and would even like to pick it up again. How wonderful that you have recorded the playlist for us here!! I often note what an author has described his characters listening to, or reading (loved Donna Tartt’s mention of Arvo Partt in The Goldfinch), but I never did that with Kafka. So, thank you. I will put these on my iPod.

    • Ah, I’m so glad you found this as fun and exciting as I did! I think that especially when it comes to Murakami, the music he chooses to include is so important to the overall mood of the book. I read somewhere that whenever he mentions a song, it really boosts the sale of those classical albums — isn’t that great? I hope to make playlists for all of the Murakami books that I’ve read soon — I’m working on one for 1Q84 right now. Thank you for your sweet comment!

  4. Pingback: A Playlist for Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 | Like Bears to Honey

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