Possible spoilers ahead.
I’ve been recommended to read Haruki Murakami’s books for several years now, and I finally got around to read one of his novels. The library didn’t have any of his earlier works in English (and definitely not in Japanese – not that I know the language…) at the moment, so I went ahead and bought his latest book. I don’t usually do this, but this hardcover version was too pretty to pass on.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage follows the past and present of Tsukuru Tazaki from his abrupt cutting off from his four closest friends at the beginning of his adult life. He is left out of the group for seemingly no reason. Because of this, his life quickly derails. He dives into a deep depression; his face and whole body changes. He contemplates suicide, but in the end, he comes out a different person. He is no longer himself, but who was he to begin with?
Now, as a 36-year-old railway-station engineer, he struggles to finally understand, with the help of his girlfriend, Sara, why this incident had such a big impact on his life.
The novel plays with the use of colours quite a lot; how his friends had a certain colour in their name, how colourful their personalities were, and how colourless he was in comparison. He was the complete opposite of his group of friends, so he sort of faded away in the background. (See the hand on the cover: Red, blue, white and black fingers representing his friends, while he’s the odd transparent thumb cropped out from a railway map.)
Throughout the book, you are told about how much Tsukuru lacks any colour. The novel focuses a lot on this theme, almost to the point where it is the main force that drives the story forwards. The first half of the novel had an almost Kafkaesque atmosphere (I write as if I know what I’m talking about –) as his ruthless exclusion isn’t explained. It was as if I was wandering around the main character’s immeasurable mind as a visitor without knowing where I was heading, or even where I began. It was nowhere near unpleasant, however.
In a way, I wanted to identify with the main character. Each of his friends had a specific trait that was easy to pinpoint whereas he was like a blank canvas. He didn’t have anything spectacular or even unique to offer the world. But as I read on, I couldn’t quite relate. Tsukuru feels empty, and he loses a big part of his own identity along with his friends, if not all of it. However, I could understand why he felt this way, and I wanted to get to know him better because of this.
Out of the 19 chapters, I liked the very last chapter most. The novel didn’t have a definite ending regarding his relationship with Sara, which I was a bit upset about for a moment, but I soon realised that this wasn’t neccessary. It wasn’t essential for the story to have a “complete” definite ending about this particular relationship, because that wasn’t the main objective of the story.
I’ve been told that Murakami “writes with magic”, but this novel wasn’t as “magical” as I expected. It was much more down to earth than I anticipated, which made it very easy to read. It’s suitable if you’re looking for something to keep you occupied on your daily commute to work or school.
I am intrigued by this author, and am looking forward to read more of his works.