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Latest Review: "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage" by Haruki Murakami

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Will Eells on Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel and published by Knopf.

While I can’t claim to know whether I may be the editor Will refers to in the opening to his review (which: HAHA OH SO FUNNY WILL VERY FUNNY INDEED), I can admit to having never read a single work by Murakami. This mostly has to do with the fact that EVERYONE. ELSE. and their mothers has read and drooled over Murakami (either in earnest or forcibly), the media have done the same, and the hype just turns me off the idea of Murakami on principle. Basically: the rest of you ruined Murakami before I even managed to cracked a cover.

That said, Wills review actually has me thinking that this, a book that may not “go down as Murakami’s masterpiece,” may be the Murakami for me to start with . . . Here’s the beginning of Will’s review:

Floating around the internet amid the hoopla of a new Haruki Murakami release, you may have come across a certain Murakami Bingo courtesy of Grant Snider. It is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s funny because it’s true, to a certain extent: Murakami, for better or worse, has a particular style, and with it come the trappings and clichéd Murakami-isms that, as a fan, you come to both love and loathe about the 65-year-old writer. He has become the master of a certain kind of metaphysical mystery wrapped in urban ennui. You’re either on board (like me), or you aren’t (like a certain editor of this website).

But anyone attempting to play Murakami Bingo with his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, is going to lose. There are no parallel worlds, talking animals, or mysterious women. There’s only one passing reference each to wells and cats, both only as metaphors, and there’s really only one piece of music that’s talked about at any length. And it’s not even jazz.

This is Murakami at his most straightforward and subdued, the likes of which we’ve really only seen—in novels, at least—in Norwegian Wood and South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is a relatively straightforward tale of friendship, depression, and memory. As such, it sheds a beacon on both Murakami’s core strengths and weaknesses as a writer, some thirty odd years into his career.

In this latest novel, the eponymous Tsukuru, a middle-aged train station engineer, reflects on his high school days, when he belonged to a group of friends so close that its importance to his life has become essentially mythic. Each of their names even contain a color—Aka (red), the temperamental brainiac; Ao (blue), the cool people-person; Kuro (black), the sarcastic comedian; and Shiro (white), the quiet beauty—except for Tsukuru, who they joked was “colorless.” This moniker takes on a whole new meaning for Tsukuru when the group unceremoniously and without explanation excise him from their circle after he leaves their hometown for Tokyo and college. Tsukuru’s sudden exile sends him into a wretched depression, from which he clearly did not come out entirely intact. Sixteen years later, in the present day, a casual girlfriend prompts Tsukuru to try and figure out just what exactly happened, in the hopes that he might be able to finally heal, and perhaps commit more fully to his present relationship with her.

For the rest of the review, go here.

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