Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was in a reading slump, had been for several months, when I picked this book. This latest English translation Murakami novel was not my first attempt to get me back to finishing this year reading challenge. I had tried several books but only this one I could finish.

My review may contain spoilers.

Colorless

I still enjoy Murakami’s work. Although Colorless (the whole title is just too long :P) is not on my top 3 Murakami books, his fiction and non-fiction (I’m halfway reading — have been for more than a year — his autobiography, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) have always this peaceful nuance, at least to my mind. Does anybody else feel this way too?

When I started turning on page one, I knew only part of the big story. Tsukuru Tazaki is the main character who has four close friends from high school who all have color as part of their name. You know, like having friends called Danny Blue or Jack Black.

They were black, blue, red, white and Tsukuru Tazaki. The only one without color, the colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

I tend to shut out any information about books that I might have interest to read so I missed the next part of the synopsis which is that when they are in college, those “color” friends of Tsukuru Tazaki suddenly cut their relationships with him. Without explanation.

Black

If I took time to read the whole synopsis, I think I’d read this book. sooner. But that part of ther story became apparent quite early and that was actually the reason I got hooked and could not stop reading. Because I wanted to know how he would deal with losing big part of his life.

Ok, I don’t really remember how exactly Murakami paints how painful it is for Tsukuru Tazaki but I remember that I got it and it’s heart wrenching.

When he couldn’t stand the pain, he distanced himself from his body and, from a nearby, painless spot, observed Tsukuru Tazaki enduring the agony. If he concentrated really hard, it wasn’t impossible.

Blue

And after months, Tsukuru Tazaki survived. He could move on and continue with his life. He’s getting better. But the baggage remained heavy and with him until he was thirty something.

Honestly around this part, the more pages I turned, the less I could relate myself to this introvert main character and finally I disengaged and just enjoyed the story.

Perhaps I actually still put myself in his shoes, became numb just like him. He lived but not really lived.

Red

And I guess many people live that way, with unresolved issues that they  thought they had put behind them. Until for some, at one point they just couldn’t run away anymore. For Tsukuru Tazaki, it took about almost 20 years to arrive at that point.

It was because of a woman. I am not sure I approve (who am I?). It’s just that I could not feel what makes this woman so special. Sure, he liked her more than any of her previous girls (which not even have their names mentioned), but I just could not grasp the reason.

Is it a translation issue? If I knew Japanese, would I appreciate more how Murakami grant this woman her right to push Tsukuru Tazaki out of his misery?

White

And as it is with almost all Murakami works that I have read, most of the characters are well off. Financially they seem never to have problem. They almost always are all good in their job. Or they do not possess desire for worldly things, they are content with what they get (but still able to travel around the world or locally but for a very long time).

Can you smell envy? Ha.

Anyway, when the past started to unravel itself, Tsukuru Tazaki (and I) found that it’s not only him that has been hurting. The reason behind his alienation was horrifying and I’d understand why it had to happen.

If only they care to explain to Tazaki sooner. Can you imagine for almost twenty years you thought that you were being treated unfairly and not knowing that it was for the greater good? I mean Tazaki would definitely feel better if he knew! Maybe not right away, but twenty years is a very long time.

I know, I know. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;  time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ok, I’ll stop quoting Ecclesiastes 3.

Grey

There’s the fifth “color” friend of Tsukuru Tazaki. He appeared in Tazaki’s college years, I think, as a filler. Appropriately named as grey, mixture of black and white.

For me this character serves as an emphasis that all color person will eventually leave Tazaki. He just (at that time felt that he) did not deserve them. Although he’s a filler, I think his story was craftily put by Murakami-sensei.

All Good Things Come To An End

Reading this novel makes me think growing up suck. Somewhere along the way, terrible things happen and it gets harder and harder to be happy (or maybe it’s just me? Ungrateful spoiled human being).

What might come across as being happy could actually be acceptance of how life has broken us all. Be that as it may, I’m glad that Murakami chose a happy ending.

Tsukuru Tazaki, hesitant at first, started giving his past another look. Though it’s not a comfortable journey, the closure is enabling him to free his soul and change him.

He was one who believed he was as colorless as his name, one who just accepted whatever life had thrown him, who just went with the flow. In the end he started to have a will to fight, to not just let go what could be a precious thing to him, to once again, really live.

In the end, all is good.

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