Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Colourless-Tsukuru-Tazaki-2014I received this book from Randomhouse SA for review consideration.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is my first read by Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, even though I own some of his other books.  I’ve read some spoiler free reviews of this book prior to picking it up myself and have been told that for someone new to Murakami’s work, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a good place to start. Not having read any of his other work, I can’t yet agree on that, but I will admit that this was a pleasant read.

Tsukuru Tazaki was in a tight-knit group of friends in high school. Two girls and three boys.  Interestingly all their names, except Tsukuru’s had the meaning of colour – blue, red, white and black. Tsukuru was “colourless” and this had a deeper meaning for Tsukuru. He felt he was empty, boring with no unique personality.  “I have no sense of self. I have no personality, no brilliant color. I have nothing to offer. That’s always been my problem. I feel like an empty vessel. I have a shape, I guess, as a container, but there’s nothing inside.”

His name meant “to build” and that’s exactly what he goes out to do. He has always been fascinated with train stations and he ended up moving to Tokyo to study as an engineer. In his second year of university, his friends abandoned him and cut off all ties. Tsukuru, although devastated, felt that the person he is had something to do with it. What follows thereafter is Tsukuru falling into a deep depression that turned him suicidal. This experience affects his future ability to develop meaningful friendships and relationships.

Years later he meets a woman, called Sara, who he has a relationship with. However, she feels that until he has dealt with what happened in the past, he can never really move on. She feels that he just found a way to move past the hurt and convinces him to look up his friends and seek the answers he had been looking for, for 16 years (“You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them”).

Of course, the truth he eventually finds out is shocking, but he is able to forgive and learn to deal with what happened. In this book we read about Tsukuru’s growth from a teenager to a young man and the impact of loss and betrayal on a person’s life. In some way, at the end of the novel, he does take his first real step to moving on. What I appreciated most about this novel is the writing. The prose is beautiful, especially since it’s a translated novel. I loved the philosophical descriptions in the novel, but there is also the subtle magical realism and supernatural elements, yet this novel feels real. I was a bit confused at the ending and felt a little disappointed that I didn’t get to learn what happens with Tsukuru and Sara. I still enjoyed the book and liked it enough that I’m convinced I should read my other Murakami books I own. I would most definitely recommend this book if you haven’t read Murakami yet and I do think that if you’re looking to read more diversely, this one is a good one to try.

inside cover

Another reason I loved the book is the copy I own. I like the cover, but I’m tempted to display the book on my bookshelf without the backcover, because the hardback is a beautiful black book covered in circles of red, black, white and blue (which of course resembles his 4 friends!)

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Images sources:  book cover and inside cover