I’m in the middle of Kafka on the Shore by Mr Haruki Murakami and had finished Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Mr Salman Rushdie. Both have surrealism (or magical realism, I suppose) elements in their stories and I’d like to give my two cents.
I know that Rushdie spun the story as a twist to 1001 Nights tale in modern society. There are people levitating, superheroes, a magical baby, and so on. And the most enchanting element of the magical realism (or now surrealism) is the genie princess Scheherazade whose love of a human man spans through millenia.
Murakami, on the other hand, with his Japanese root overtaking the story with Japanese societies blending in and providing tumultuous conflicts for the characters, is more grounded. The scenes are everyday realities, mundane as they may be, but the off characters are few. The magical events take place in the form of fish and leeches pouring down the sky. His overarching theme is not as grande as Rushdie’s is with the mythology and all, but with all history and events (World War II) and coming of age plot it is still a hard to put book.
I like Kafka on the Shore better than 1001 Nights personally. Perhaps, it’s more on the storytelling and dictions both authors used. Kafka on the Shore, while it’s an English translation, has more coherent storyline and focuses on the converging journeys of Kafka Tamura and Mr Nakata (at least until 50% of the story which I’m at). Meanwhile, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights sentences are tad difficult to follow, and with so many characters introduced at 50% of the plot, I get lost easily. I’m not a single sitting reader because everyday I can only read so many chapters. Four at most.