First published in Japan in 2003 and very ably translated by Philip Gabriel in 2005, Haruki Murukami’s Kafka on the Shore blends elements of the Chinese/Japanese ghost story with western popular culture, high culture and philosophy into a mix that is downright entertaining when you allow yourself to be drawn in, as I found myself doing with no problem at all. The result is rather like a benign bout of psychosis, mind you. There is also some of the best writing about sex I have seen in a long time, and I always feel that is very hard to get right so that the cliches of pornography are somehow transcended, without it getting quite as ridiculous as, I’m afraid, is the case with some of the more famous scenes in D H Lawrence.
Partly this novel works because no matter how outlandish what is happening really is, it is realised with such precision. One review noted that Murukami was translating Catcher in the Rye into Japanese at the time he was writing this, and I can see the connection; equally the novel is an embodiment, and in places quite a sharp explanation of, the essence of Greek tragedy. It is of course pomo to the hilt, but more brilliant than that might suggest.