After selling more than one million copies in its first week of publication in Japan in April 2013, ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ by Haruki Murakami has been one of the most highly anticipated novels of the year arriving in bookshops in the UK earlier this month. It tells the story of Tsukuru Tazaki who had four friends in high school whose names all coincidentally contained a colour: Akamatsu (‘red pine’), Oumi (‘blue sea’), Shirane (‘white root’) and Kurono (‘black field’). During his second year of university, Tsukuru’s friends announce without warning that they no longer want to see him or talk to him ever again and refuse to tell him why. Now in his mid-thirties, Tsukuru meets Sara who thinks he should finally come to terms with what happened and find out why he was suddenly shut out by his friends all those years ago.
Murakami’s shorter novels such as ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ are generally his most accessible works and ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ is no exception. The title is a bit of a mouthful but at just under 300 pages in length, it is a more focused and contained novel compared with ‘1Q84‘ whose succinct title contrasts heavily with its sprawling 900 page love story of Tengo and Aomame. Those who found ‘1Q84’ too self-indulgent (and even those who didn’t) may well consider ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ to be a return to form for Murakami.
Although there is plenty of ambiguity in the story, particularly in Tsukuru’s dreams, the novel is generally more straightforward with fewer elements of surrealism compared with much of Murakami’s other work. Nevertheless, despite the toned down magical realism, it’s classic Murakami in terms of themes and motifs apart from the notable absence of talking cats. The ‘Years of Pilgrimage’ in the title derives from Franz Liszt’s suite of the same name which is a recurring feature throughout the story. Distant, young and a bit nerdy, the character of Tsukuru is a fairly typical Murakami creation and the ending is characteristically inconclusive.
And yet while ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki’ and His Years of Pilgrimage’ doesn’t diverge much from the atmosphere of his previous novels, Murakami somehow remains always inventive and never predictable. His fans will certainly devour his latest work which is just as intimate and intriguing as all of his other novels, but maybe a little less strange overall.
18 responses to “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami”
I enjoyed this very much. I like Murakami’s stranger novels, but appreciated the more normal storyline I this new novel.
Yes, I had been expecting something more surreal and mind-bending – maybe next time!
This book has me intrigued although it has been a few years since I last read any Murakami (I seemed to have drifted away), but the thoughtful warm reviews are encouraging.
And then there is the book itself.
Here in Canada the book has an entirely different cover and clocks in at 400 pages. And then I saw it in the store! It is smaller in format than the typical hardcover – 5×7 – with a grey dust jacket with clear coloured windows over a cover printed like a street or subway map. Honestly I just wanted to pick it up and take it home because it felt so good in my hands! I resisted for the moment but if I do buy it it will definitely be the hardcover (just have to wait until next month).
Thanks for your review. I agreed with your comments, but that said, didn’t enjoy it as much as ‘Kafka’, or ‘Norwegian Wood’. The cover design was stunning in the vivid scarlets and orange and blue and I enjoyed the sheet of stickers (very whimsical!) – in fact, I thought the book design was more exciting than the contents. I’m still trying to put my finger on the reason why I feel dissatisfied about the book – you’ve probably identified it: the ending.
I love the cover design too which I thought was very apt when reading the story. I doubt Murakami will ever write a conclusive ending though!
Colourless Tsukuru popped my Murakami cherry as it were so I have no idea how it compares to his other work. I keep reading that it’s not at surrealist as his other work and that’s probably a good thing. I loved this book – it was unexpected in many ways. But if it had been too out there I’m not sure I would be looking to read more of his work. So I’m very torn on how to proceed from here: do I seek out more of his work or just enjoy the fact that I liked this one and be ok with that?
I would suggest Norwegian Wood next or his short stories 🙂
Hmm, I think you’ve just sold a book. I have flight or fight reactions to Murakami’s writing, but this sounds very approachable.
I’m looking forward to this book, as it’s on my “to read” list. I think you might have cemented the deal that it’s next on my ever-growing list!
I’m looking forward to getting a copy of this one
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A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff has review of Haruki Murakami’s new book Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage. A Little Blog states that Murakami in Colorless Tsukuru “remains inventive and never predictable.” It’s thoughtful review of Murakami’s newest book.
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