Book Review: Haruki Murakami // Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This review is going to be as simple as Murakami’s writing. Each of his sentences is stripped naked of any flowery literary devices and punches you right in the stomach. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the third Murakami novel I have read and whilst the themes are similar, the writing never tires.

In this novel, we follow Tsukuru Tazaki who begins by telling us that for a while, during his late teen years. he wanted to die. He never knew why he didn’t do anything, but he welcomed the notion. But here he is over ten years later becoming more and more alive.

Tsukuru’s numbness — a numbness portrayed impactfully in the writing — began when he returned from university to visit his friends in his hometown. Tsukuru phones all his friends and nobody answered. Only later does he receive a call telling him he no longer part of the group.

This friendship group was an integral part of his life. There were five of them, and when they were altogether a blissful harmony was created. We do hear however that Tsukuru feels out of place — he’s the only member who does not have a surname that denotes a colour. He begins to think he is colourless. Being colourless he believes must be why he was removed from the group. Not only does he believe his name is colourless, but also his personality. He feels he has nothing to offer the world and hence why death seems like such an alluring option.

Tsukuru never found out why he was made to leave the group until he meets Sara, his current love interest. She urges him to seek out his old friends and find out the reason he was made to leave. Sara believes that although Tsukuru claims he just let it be, it was still looming over him. Sara won’t have sex with Tskuru until he is fully present. So off Tskuru goes on his pilgrimage. Back to his hometown and all the way to Finland where he finds out what really happened.

Sara tells him: “You can hide memories, suppress them, but you can’t erase the history that produced them … You can’t erase history, or change it. It would be like destroying yourself”. Time, regret and memories are key themes in this novel. There is an immense sense of nostalgia and the writing seems to create a sense of timelessness. Tsukuru tries to escape history. His desire to die altered his character and his old friends fail to recognise him. Only when he sees them again does he regain different pieces of his personality back.

Murakami is no stranger to musical references in his novels and the titles. Not only does the novel follow Tsukuru on a pilgrimage, but it also discusses variations of the composition Years of Pilgrimage. How the piano composition each affected each characters life and what variation their emotions were attached to.

There are some difficult topics discussed in the novel. And some questionable topics. I’ve read enough Murakami works now to know that he has a controversial way of writing women and an intense fixation on breasts. I don’t know if this is how most men think but it does seem exaggerated. Can you separate the work from the author? Is Murukami misogynistic? Or is he just depicting society as it is? I’m not sure.

I enjoy Murakami’s writing style and profound philosophical points more than the characters and plots. I want to feel the numbness his writing creates. Murakami may write similar plots but he never fails to capture raw human emotions — and in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, he did this wonderfully.


01/05/21

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