Reboot attempt #1: Murakami's symbolism - animals
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The first topic is one I've been thinking about for quite some time: Murakami's use of animals in his books. I don't think anyone has missed the fact that there's a lot of them: cats and elephants; kangaroos, fish, giraffes and sheep; monkeys, birds, even unicorns... If anything, animals seems to be THE key element of almost all his books, with a few exceptions.
Another fairly obvious point is that there seem to be a lot of symbolism connected with animals, and that they tie into what I'd like to call Murakami's personal mythology. Even so, this symbolism is often elusive to the point of obscurity, and often I can't get my head around it.
Often when Japanese writers use animals, western readers and critics are quick to make the connection to Shintoism and it’s animism, but given that Murakami is such a westernised writer, I can’t really accept that that’s the whole story.
Take the cats in Kafka on the Shore, for example: they are central to the story, but what do they represent? They seem (to me) to represent Nakata’s deeper “spiritual” connection to the world, but is that it? There seem to be a lot of sea creatures in that book as well, mainly connected with strange occurrences, like the fish falling from the sky - is there some connection between the “unknown depths of the sea”, as symbolised by the fish, and the increasing strangeness of reality? If so, is the book’s title relevant? The shore is the border between land and sea – where the “known world” ends and the unknown begin...
I have more thoughts about this, and of course about animals in other books as well, but I’ll leave it like this for now. I hope to hear some thoughts about it.