Sometimes fate is like a sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change directions 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.
“‘Even chance meetings’… how does the rest of that go?”
“‘Are the result of karma.’”
“Right, right,” she says. “But what does it mean?”
“That things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.”
“In ancient times, people weren’t just 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 everybody 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 other half.”
Oshima and Kafka have just met for the first time. Oshima engages Kafka in a surprisingly deep conversation about the nature of the soul. Indeed, this quote reveals much about Oshima’s worldview, and foreshadows later conversations he will have with Kafka, as their friendship develops, about his own gender identity. Oshima’s story helps to explain why many characters in the novel feel as if they are being drawn towards each other by forces outside of their control or knowledge, as well as why characters feel so comfortable with each other so soon after meeting: perhaps they are actually two halves of the same soul, reunited at last. However, another side to that theory is that soulmates are codependent—and, until they meet, are less than complete. One possible danger of a belief in soulmates is that it suggests that someone who has not found their soul mate is less than whole, and therefore cannot possibly have a fulfilling life. Finally, Oshima’s story relates to his gender identity, something that he keeps private from Kafka until later. Oshima identifies as a gay transgender man, but because he faces prejudice from others who don’t know about his identity or perceive him as female, Oshima often feels conflicted about his gender, making him another example of the ways in which the novel deals with the split between the mind (or the self) and the body.
It might sound strange to put it this way, but it seemed like the real Nakata had gone off somewhere, leaving behind for a time the fleshy container, which in his absence kept all his bodily functions going at the minimum level needed to preserve itself. The term “spirit projection” sprang to mind.
I didn’t cry at all. I already knew that somewhere, on some distant battlefield, my husband would lose his life. Ever since the year before, when all those things I just wrote about took place—that erotic dream my period starting ahead of time, hitting Nakata, the children falling into that mysterious coma—I’d accepted my husband’s death as inevitable, as something fated to be. So news of his death merely confirmed what I already knew.
“If I listen to some utterly perfect performance of an utterly perfect piece while I’m driving, I might want to close my eyes and die right then and there. But listening to the D major, I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of—that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally, I find that encouraging.”
I’m being tested, I tell myself. Oshima spent a few days alone here, too, when he was about my age. He must have been scared out of his wits, same as me. That’s what he meant by solitude comes in different varieties. Oshima knows exactly how I feel being here alone at night, because he’s gone through the same thing, and felt the same emotions.
“Miss Saeki’s life basically stopped at age twenty, when her lover died. No, maybe not age twenty, maybe much earlier…I don’t know the details, but you need to be aware of this. The hands of the clock buried inside her soul ground to a halt then.”
“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.”
“My father told me there was nothing I could to escape this fate. That prophecy is like a timing device buried inside my genes, and nothing can ever change it. I will kill my father and be with my mother and sister.”
One by one the words find a home in my heart. It’s a weird feeling. Images beyond any meaning arise like cutout figures and stand alone, just like when I’m in the middle of a deep dream.
The drowning girl’s fingers
Search for the entrance stone, and more.
Lifting the hem of her azure dress,
at Kafka on the shore.
The lyrics to “Kafka on the Shore” speak deeply to Kafka, serving as one of many pieces of real or imagined evidence convincing him that he is being drawn to Miss Saeki by fate. Indeed, there are many references in the song tying different elements of the book together, adding a note of surrealism and coincidence that helps explain why characters like Kafka might believe so strongly in fate. The most obvious instance of this is the connection to Kafka’s name, which seems especially powerful because he chose the name “Kafka” for himself. The reference to the “search for the entrance stone” connects Miss Saeki and Kafka’s story to that of Hoshino and Nakata, reinforcing the suspicion of many characters in the book that their lives are on predetermined paths.
I breathe very quietly, waiting for the dawn. A cloud parts, and moonlight shines down on the trees in the garden. There are just too many coincidences. Everything seems to be speeding up, rushing towards one destination.
“I used to be normal, just like everybody else. But something happened and I ended up like a container with nothing inside.”
“Yeah, but if you look at it like that we’re all pretty much empty, don’t you think?”
Listening to Fournier’s flowing, dignified cello, Hoshino was drawn back to his childhood. He used to go to the river every day to catch fish. Nothing to worry about back then, he reminisced. Just live each day as it came. As long as I was alive, I was something.
“There are a lot of things that aren’t your fault. Or mine, either. Not the fault of prophecies, or curses, or DNA, or absurdity. Not the fault of structuralism or the Third Industrial Revolution. We all die and disappear, but that’s because the mechanism of the world itself is built on destruction and loss.”
What makes sense, what doesn’t, it’s all mixed up. Above me, a crow gives out a piercing caw that sounds like a warning, it’s so jarring. I stop and cautiously survey my surroundings.
“You have to overcome the fear and anger inside you,” the boy named Crow says. “Let a bright light shine in and melt the coldness in your heart. That’s what being tough is all about.”
He’d resigned himself to the fact that it was only a matter of time before this day came. But now that it had, and he was alone in this quiet room with a dead Miss Saeki, he was lost. He felt as if his heart had dried up.
“But when I listen to this music it’s like Beethoven’s right here talking to me, telling me something like, It’s ok, Hoshino, don’t worry about it. That’s life. I’ve done some pretty awful things in my life too. Not much you can do about it. Things happen. You just got to hang in there.”
“I think that whenever something happens in the future I’ll always wonder—What would Mr. Nakata say about this? What would Mr. Nakata do? I’ll always have someone I can turn to. And that’s kind of a big deal, if you think about it. It’s like part of you will always live inside me.
“It’s not something you can get across in words. The real response is something words can’t express.”