Violence and therapy in Murakami Haruki's Kafka on the Shore

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Popular Japanese author Murakami Haruki's tenth novel, Kafka on the Shore, has been criticised by some for its overly therapeutic tone. This novel, these critics argue, fails to adequately address the central question of violence it raises and offers readers a false sense of psychological security. A more sympathetic reading of these therapeutic themes is possible, however, especially when the novel is situated within the wider historical context of its production. Employing both Jungian and Lacanian perspectives, this essay argues that the central protagonist's journey in Kafka on the Shore, from fear to forgiveness, is a legitimate response to the anxieties of the age and is heroic in nature. Nevertheless, this psychological victory is complicated and even partially undermined by competing themes and narratives in the work. Kafka on the Shore is thus a less reassuring novel than critics suggest and offers a complex view of the possibilities and limitations inherent in a therapeutic approach to the problem of violence in contemporary Japan.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-112
Number of pages20
JournalSungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010 Apr
Externally publishedYes


  • Kafka on the Shore
  • Murakami Haruki
  • Psychoanalytic readings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Religious studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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