book blogger, book reviews, colorless tsukuru tazaki and his years of pilgrimage review, colourless tsukuru tazaki, japanese books in translation, japanese literature, Magical Realism, murakami book review
Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it.
One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.
Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.
Thoughts : This is going to be a short review because I don’t think I’m able to get my thoughts in order about this book. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed other Murakami books but at the same time I could totally relate to the main character’s loneliness (having been in the kind of family that moves every couple of years).
Tsukuru, the protagonist, while on an assignment in school forms a strong bond with four other characters and they eventually become a group. Kei Akamatsu, Yoshio Oumi, Yuzuki Shirane and Eri Kurono Haatainen are his best friends and they do everything together in Nagoya. In fact, their friendship is so strong that they even, after graduating, decide to put aside their career plans and remain in Nagoya so that they can remain a group. Tsukuru is the only one who leaves to Tokyo. But the friendship isn’t strained because they write letters to each other and meet every time he comes to town, which is pretty often. Till, one day, he comes back and they all refuse to take his calls or speak with him again. That’s all. No explanations offered.
Tsukuru had already felt like an outsider in the group because he was colourless while the other’s in the group each had a colour in their name. Red, blue, white and black respectively. This incident only further makes him feel like an unremarkable, unnteresting one and he lets this affect every relationship in his life after. He probably doesn’t notice it until Sara, a girl he really likes, points out that there is something wrong with him. That he seems emotionally incomplete. She tells him to go and talk to them, sort it out, before they make something of their relationship and he embarks upon a journey to do just that.
This is, I believe, the only Murakami book that doesn’t have magical realism in it but it has his usual theme. Male protagonist, lots of sexual dreams and some woman who connects him to “redemption”. I’m used to sex in Murakami’s writing but this book, I felt, was particularly distasteful. The constant attention to every woman’s breasts and to his own sperm/ejaculations make me want to snap the book shut but the loneliness, melancholy feeling of the writing itself pushed me to continue.
While this is a short book and I only took a day to complete it (probably because I was reading a very boring book along with it and I needed a breather) I still can’t say it is because the book was any good on its own. Probably by comparison it was a great read. I’ll say this though, Murakami brings the usual references, Europe, classical music and trains, which bring a refreshing, old world feel to the story.
But the obsession with the breasts doesn’t help me get to know the character. The character building almost feels weak, or maybe there was a reason Murakami did that? Ok, here are my thoughts. Is the character of Tsukuru weak because Tsukuru himself feels empty? or is weak because Murakami suddenly decided to focus on women’s bodies instead? I don’t know. I can’t figure out which it is because if it is the former, Murakami has done an excellent job. If it is the latter, Freud theories come to mind.
Read this if you aren’t a very happy go lucky person. If you’re someone who is a bit of a social outcast, maybe socially awkward, you will relate to Tsukuru very well. If not this book will leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. Definitely do NOT read this as your introduction to Murukamai.