Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

murakami cover

First he was given a name. Then consciousness and memory developed, and, finally, ego. But everything began with his name.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami is somewhat of a coming of age story (better late than never) of Tsukuru Tazaki. In high school he was part of an inseparable group of five friends. Each had a color in their name (red, blue, white, black) except for him. After graduation they all stay in Nagoya, but Tsukuru goes away to Tokyo. They remain close until his sophomore year when he goes home for a visit and is told that his friends will no longer associate with him. Shocked, he asks why. He is told, “That’s not something I can tell you… Think about it, and you’ll figure it out.” Tsukuru accepts this. In the group of five he has always felt the odd man out. He doesn’t have a color in his name. He has no exceptional abilities or stand out characteristics like the others. In fact, he is surprised he was allowed into the group in the first place. But this doesn’t mean their decision doesn’t hurt. He spends the next six months on the verge of suicide, but eventually is able to snap out of it. He goes on living, but now mainly sees himself as an empty, colorless vessel without much to offer the world.

Fast forward — Tsukuru is in his mid 30’s and has fallen in love for the first time with Sara. Sara senses that there is something in Tsukuru’s life that is holding him back. He opens up to her about the story of his high school friends and she encourages him to go seek them out, find out what happened and gain closure so that he can move forward in his life. Tsukuru heeds her advice and goes on a journey that will take him back to his hometown and all the way to Finland in order to get to the bottom of this mystery.

After reading a few Murakami novels you’ll begin to be able to predict exactly what will be in his next book. So it was no surprise that his newest novel included: thoughts of suicide, soul mates, logic vs intuition, simple, healthy eating, and an emphasis on music (for a fun article about the music in Murakami’s books go here). And, of course, the book was filled with emotionless, robotic, Bones-esque dialogue.

Because of this commonality between stories it can become confusing at times as you begin to merge what happened in one book with the current one you’re reading. But don’t take this to mean that I think it’s necessarily a bad or played out thing!

This particular book, however, left me unsatisfied and the reason for that is that the magical element was lacking in Colorless Tsukuru, which is what I look forward to and expect in a Murakami book. So it is always surprising when it doesn’t happen, especially when Murakami hints of magical things to come throughout the book: weird dreams, mystical stories, mysteries, Finnish elves in the woods… But in the end this was just a basic story of a man figuring out who he is without the help of another, magical reality. If you loved Norwegian Wood, then you’ll probably enjoy this more than I did. But if you were hoping for another Wind Up Bird, then you’ll end up a bit disappointed.

That amazing time in our lives is gone, and will never return. All the beautiful possibilities we had then have been swallowed up in the flow of time.

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