Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Release Date: 12th August 2014
Childhood friends don’t often stick around to share their lives with your own. Years later do you shrug it off, maybe think some melancholy thoughts once in a while? Perhaps you don’t feel anything looking back; there is a reason for everything after all. Maybe each close friend is still a simple phone call away. Or perhaps there is something deeply rooted within your heart about it all, tugging your energy away at every possible moment, questioning yourself on a daily basis. That’s the Tsukuru Tazaki way.
The latest Haruki Murakami novel steps away from his typically high concept fantasy realm, instead opting for a grounded reality, last seen in his romantic classic, Norwegian Wood. Tsukuru Tazaki is getting on with his life at 36, working at a railway station construction company, and seeing his casual girlfriend from time to time. Everything is as pedestrian as one would expect, nothing out of the ordinary here. Except for a rather unusual past pinning him down. His group of four best friends, each named after a different colour (as articulated by the novels UK cover) abandoned Tsukuru for reasons he can’t quite fathom, and after a little shove from his girlfriend, Tsukuru sets out to confront his past friends and find out why he was rejected all those years ago.
The story has a fairly straightforward structure, with each friend Tsukuru meets taking us one step closer to the truth, and little happens in between. It’s strange to read a Murakami novel which doesn’t throw in random junctures for our protagonist to venture into, and the world and character detail seems to have gone along with those twisting paths.The world and path for Tsukuru is as blank a he considers himself to be, though thankfully the story’s core is bursting with colour.
The biggest strength of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is how well it conveys the feeling of lost time and solitude, typically through the consistently engaging dialogue. The story about the piano player and his mysterious bag is one such highlight. Life can pass us all by, and the novel constantly hits hard when the past unravels beneath Tsukuru’s feet while he tries to find just what he has in the present. The emotion isn’t just trapped within the novel, it can spread to the reader, who may suddenly start relying their own past due to the relatable nature of the frequent reflections and insights unearthed through each confrontation.
The novel is just shy of being another Haruki Murakami masterpiece, but the world that wraps the story together is too empty, lost within some surprisingly corny similes and incredibly obvious observations; a new Murakami trait to go with his copy and paste sex scenes that often intrude on the dream like beauty he so often captures. I’m not sure if it’s a translation problem or not, but the weaker language used takes away from this colourful pilgrimage.