Dialogue from Kafka On The Shore

It took another hour to find someone willing to take him as far as Fujigawa. The trucker was a beefy man in his mid-forties, with arms like logs and a jutting belly, who was hauling fresh fish in a refrigerated truck.

“I hope you don’t mind the fish smell,” the driver said.

“Fish are one of Nakata’s favorites,” Nakata replied.

The driver laughed. “You’re a strange one, aren’t you.”

“People tell me that sometimes.”

“I happen to like the strange ones,” the driver said. “People who look normal and live a normal life–they’re the ones you have to watch out for.”

“Is that so?”

“Believe me, that’s how it goes. In my opinion, anyway.”

“Nakata doesn’t have many opinions. Though I do like eel.”

“Well, that’s an opinion. That you like eel.”

“Eel is an opinion?”

“Sure, saying you like eel’s an opinion.”

Thus the two of them drove to Fujigawa. The driver said his name was Hagita.

“So, Mr. Nakata, what do you think about the way the world’s going?” he asked.

“I’m very sorry, I’m not bright, so I have no idea at all about that,” Nakata said.

“Having your own opinion and not being very bright are two different things.”

“But Mr. Hagita, not being very bright means you can’t think about things.”

“But you did say you like eel.”

“Yes, eel is one of Nakata’s favorites.”

“That’s a connection, see?”

“Um.”

“Do you like chicken and egg over rice?”

“Yes, that’s one of Nakata’s favorites too.”

“Well, there’s a connection there, too,” Hagita said. “You build up relationships like that one after another and before you know it you have meaning. The more connections, the deeper the meaning. Doesn’t matter if it’s eel, or rice bowls, or grilled fish, whatever. Get it?”

“No, I still don’t understand. Does food make connections between things?”

“Not just food. Streetcars, the emperor, whatever.”

“But I don’t ride streetcars.”

“That’s fine. Look–what I’m getting at is no matter who or what you’re dealing with, people build up meaning between themselves and the things around them. The important thing is whether this comes about naturally or not. Being bright has nothing to do with it. What matters is that you see things with your own eyes.”

“You’re very bright, Mr. Hagita.”

Hagita let out a loud laugh. “It isn’t a question of intelligence. I’m not all that bright, I just have my own way of thinking. That’s why people get disgusted with me. They accuse me of always bringing up things that are better left alone. If you try to use your head to think about things, people don’t want to have anything to do with you.”

“Nakata still doesn’t understand, but are you saying that there’s a link between liking eel and liking chicken and egg over rice?”

“You could put it that way, I suppose. There’s always going to be a connection between you, Mr. Nakata, and the things you deal with. Just like there’s a connection between eel and rice bowls. And as the web of these connections spreads out, a relationship between you, Mr. Nakata, and capitalists and the proletariat naturally develops.”

“Pro-le-what?”

“The proletariat,” Mr. Hagita said, taking his hands off the steering wheel and making a wide gesture. To Nakata they looked as massive as baseball gloves. “The people who work hard, who earn their bread through the sweat of their brow, those are the proletariat. On the other hand you’ve got your guys who sit on their duffs, not lifting a finger, giving orders to other people and getting a hundred times my salary. Those are your capitalists.”

“I don’t know about people who are capitalists. I’m poor, and I don’t know anybody great like that. The greatest person I know is the Governor of Tokyo. Is the Governor a capitalist?”

“Yeah, I suppose. Governors are more likely to be capitalists’ lapdogs, though.”

“The Governor is a dog?” Nakata remembered the huge black dog who took him to Johnnie Walker’s house, and that ominous figure and the Governor overlapped in his mind.

“The world’s swarming with those kind of dogs. Pawns of the capitalists.”

“Pawns?”

“Like paws, with an ‘n’.”

“Are there any capitalist cats?” Nakata asked.

Hagita burst out laughing. “Boy, you are different, Mr. Nakata! But I like your style. Capitalist cats! That’s a good one. A very unique opinion you have there.”

“Mr. Hagita?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m poor and received a sub city every month from the Governor. Was this the wrong thing to do?”

“How much do you get every month?”

Nakata told him the amount.

Hagita shook his head disgustedly. “Pretty damn hard to get by on so little.”

“That’s not true, because Nakata doesn’t use much money. Besides the sub city, I get money by helping people find their lost cats.”

“No kidding? A professional cat-finder?” Hagita said, impressed. “You’re an amazing guy, I have to say.”

“Actually, I’m able to talk with cats,” Nakata said. “I can understand what they say. That helps me locate the missing ones.”

Hagita nodded. “I wouldn’t put it past you.”

“But not long ago I found out I couldn’t talk with cats anymore. I wonder why.”

“Things change every day, Mr. Nakata. With each new dawn it’s not the same world as the day before. And you’re not the same person you were, either. You get what I’m saying?”

“Yes.”

“Connections change too. Who’s the capitalist, who’s the proletarian. Who’s on the right, who’s on the left. The information revolution, stock options, floating assets, occupational restructuring, multinational corporations–what’s good, what’s bad. Boundaries between things are disappearing all the time. Maybe that’s why you can’t speak to cats anymore.”

“The difference between right and left Nakata understands. This is right, and this is left. Correct?”

“You got it,” Hagita agreed. “That’s all you need to know.”

The last thing they did together was have a meal in a rest area restaurant. Hagita ordered two orders of eel, and when Nakata insisted on paying, to thank him for the ride, the driver shook his head emphatically.

“No way,” he said. “I’d never let you use the pittance they give you for a subsidy to feed me.”

“Much obliged, then. Thank you for such a treat,” Nakata said, happy to accept his kindness.

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