TITLE: COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE
AUTHOR: HARUKI MURAKAMI
AND PHILIP GABRIEL (TRANSLATOR)
PUBLISHED: 12TH APRIL 2013 (FIRST PUBLISHED)
2ND JULY 2015 (THE EDITION I READ)
RATING: 4/5 STARS
“We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.”
I recently had the urge to pick up a Murakami novel, and had no idea where to begin. I’d love to read 1Q84, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, or Kafka on the Shore, but they all seemed a little intimidating (in size and genre) to start with. So I took to Instagram and asked for recommendations on which book to begin with, and was given so many helpful suggestions. In the end, I decided to start with one of his more recent publications: Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I’m so glad that I did!
Now, this book is not for everyone. It’s slow, (very slow for a 250 page book) it’s melancholy, and the characters aren’t all very likeable. But I am a big fan of all of these components (which is probably why I love Fitzgerald so much!). Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was engaging throughout, brought up interesting themes, and was wrapped up with a thought-provoking, open ending. It was basically a recipe for a book I would love!
Tsukuru was a good protagonist, although I’ve heard he is much like every other Murakami protagonist! He’s a haunted, depressed, middle-aged man, still hurt from a rejection in his childhood. At school, Tsukuru Tazaki was in a close friendship group, and the memories of this friendship form the basis of the story. All of the friends, minus Tsukuru, had a colour in their name: Akamatsu means ‘red pine’, Oumi, ‘blue sea’, Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. This book explored the idea of being colourless from a very interesting angle: of feeling you possess no particular you-ness – nothing special which makes you, you.
The story follows Tsukuru on his journey to discover why his school friends rejected him. Throughout the journey, (most of which is mental rather than physical) Tsukuru has to do a lot of self-reflection, a lot of forgiving, and a lot of understanding. There is a sort of mystery-novel feel to a lot of this book, which had me turning the pages, not wanting to put the book down. And yet it is also a very reflective, quiet story, about a man who is hurting and haunted.
Despite Murakami’s engaging plot, I did find myself a little disconnected from the story at times. I felt as though I was reading the story without being part of it, which is something I often need from a book. In other words, it wasn’t escapism. Perhaps that was the style Murakami was going for, or maybe that was just my impression, but it impacted how much I connected to the book.
Overall, I really enjoyed the plot, themes and characters of this story, and would definitely recommend this as a good book to start with if you are looking to get into Murakami’s works, but don’t want to start with one of his larger books! Colorless Tsukuru has definitely given me a taste for an author who I am sure I will pick up again in the future.