kafka on the shore

Although about many things, Kafka on the Shore is certainly a story of the tribulations and transfigurations of its protagonist, Kafka Tamura. The following passage appears early in the novel and sets the stage for what will become an outrageous journey:

“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 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.”

In typical fashion, Murakami employs an intriguing simile–a sandstorm–to represent the abstract and sort of strange concept fated disturbance within oneself, a kind of unavoidable streak of mental or emotional mayhem.

Contemplations of destiny aside, this passage strikes me as a particularly poetic version of the idea that pain is a necessary precursor to transformation. One is reminded of Nietzsche’s “loneliest desert” metaphor in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

The passage suggests that, in time, we will be forced to confront whatever darkness is within us, and that regardless of the intangibility of that darkness, it can inflict the pain of “a thousand razor blades”. This may seem a rather desolate viewpoint, but I find it oddly comforting.

Source: Refind the Mind