Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
Victoria Brobst, Staff Writer
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, published April 2013, was a highly anticipated book written by internationally known novelist, Haruki Murakami, and almost earned him the 2014 Nobel Prize.
Since discovering Murakami in late 2011, I have slowly read my way through his other works: 1Q84 (2009-2010), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997), A Wild Sheep Chase (1989), Kafka on the Shore (2005), and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1991).
Murakami’s writing style is a surrealistic, almost science fiction, spin on aspects of modern day life. Usually his works follow one or more characters using the third person, but Murakami writes thoughtfully to gain insight and reveal feelings amongst all characters.
I was excited to read his latest tale, expecting to once again experience Murakami’s trademark style and meet his latest characters.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki observes a train station engineer, Tsukuru Tazaki, who is burdened by unanswered events of his past. He presently discloses his internal contempt to his girlfriend, Sara, who feels he should seek answers or at least closure.
Back in high school, Tsukuru founded a strong friendship with four of his classmates while doing community service. Through working together, a charisma and understanding of friendship had been established, as they enjoyed spending time with one another. However, aside from Tsukuru, the other friends’ names each translated to a color in Japanese. Naturally, this made Tsukuru feel disjointed.
Tsukuru was the only one of the group who ventured away from their hometown, Nagoya. Shortly after, he had been told to stop all associations with the group. Deeply confused, Tsukuru was hurt but had respected their wishes.
In college, he isolated himself from social life, focused on routine and school, and underwent a deathly transformation spurred by sadness and confusion about being shunned by the group. He recovered, but was always left feeling empty and colorless. Tsukuru fulfilled his specific goal and became a station engineer.
Back to the present day, Tsukuru takes Sara’s advice and— with the help of her prying skills and encouragement— sets off on a pilgrimage to find and talk to his four friends to resolve his internal conflict and understand why he was so suddenly excluded.
Tsukuru learns how his lack of action and empty self-concept resulted in what he believes to be a “colorless personality” and lifestyle. Through his pilgrimage he reflects on lost possibilities in time, discovers shocking news about his friends, and realizes his love for Sara.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki proved to be a good read, but I believe it was not Murakami’s best. I feel there was a lot of possibility in the writing, plot, and characters, but the story was interrupted abruptly at the ending.
The story took a different turn than I expected. There was no real plot climax; any suspense was quickly dulled and the story seemed much composed in my own mind.
The novel was more realistic and human than Murakami’s past works. It sought possibility for a science fiction-side, which I anticipated, but it was left unexplored.
Through the characters he introduced, I was hoping for more answers or relationship development, but it built a strong relationship only to the main character, Tsukuru. I enjoyed this aspect; it became a meditative experience for the reader, and helped me to reflect on my own life and decisions.
I noticed the symbolism in Tsukuru’s profession, a station engineer. He builds and remodels stations, harbors to travelers seeking routes and paths to achieve a destination. It reflects the novel’s themes: time, connections, and reflection.
Meg Wolitzer agrees and is equally moved by the novel. In her NPR review of the book, Wolitzer says, “Colorless Tsukuru‘s mystery is solved before the end, but the mystery of the spell that the great Murakami casts over his readers, myself included, goes, as ever, unsolved. The novel feels like a riddle, a puzzle, or maybe, actually, more like a haiku: full of beauty, strangeness, and color, thousands of syllables long.”