Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

murakamiFirst thing I thought about this book: the title is odd. The story is about Tsukuru Tazaki who is named after the Japanese word for „to create“ and is searching for his meaning in life. A dark mystery is the core of his search.

He was born and raised in Nagoya. His best friends back in old school days were Shiro (White), Kuro (Black), Ao (Blue) and Aka (Red). They were once close and shared everything like every typical school clique. When Tsukuru left Nagoya for Tokyo in order to study, he kept contact with his friends, who stayed in their hometown.

All of a sudden without any reason they broke up with him, giving him the cold shoulder, explaining him nothing. The break up is complete and disturbing. No one of the clique is ever talking to him anymore. What happened?

In the course of that incident Tsukuru suffers deeply from a depression. He lives now solitary in Tokyo until after a while the encounter of Midorigawa (green River) is cheering him up again. He is a mysterious fellow, as he tells Tsukuru about his special skills of being able to see the colors of people. For this skill the gifted person is paying a high price, although it indicates a sort of enlightenment. Midorigawa disappears without reason.

When Tsukuru is getting to know a woman named Sara, he is changing his life attitude. With the help of her he traces back his old friends of school days and goes on a trip seeing each of them in order to get to know the story behind their sudden yet long silence. This journey takes him back into his childhood to Nagoya, later he travels also to Finland. The friends are adults now of course and have taken different paths in their life.

Tsukuru‘s trip into his past and search is written as a kaleidoscopic story. The reader gets to know piece by piece of the story and some insights to Tsukuru’s mind and dreams. Extrasensory powers and strange happenings are some of the ingredients, but not as much as in Murakami‘s former novels.

The character of Tsukuru is colorless in the beginning. He unfolds his personality during the narration and the story is a play with colors. The composition of the story is that of an expert. At a first glance it is smooth, too smooth?

The trip to Finland could have been taken place elsewhere in the world. The setting is stereotype. And I must admit most of the characters in this story are only schematic too. What is wrong with it?

There are few details or specialities, no crankiness. The story is pale. The typical Murakami ingredients are missing.

On the other hand, what do you expect when you read the title? Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki … Everyone in the mass, you do not know, could be Tsukuru. It is a story about dissolving a person‘s character and his social bonds, of someone’s search after meaning in life, friendship and love.

It is a story the reader can fill with his own colors. The questions are:
What are you doing with your life?
Are you letting go?
When do you fight?
What can you do?

In the end you will get some answers, hopefully.

It is a story of the modern man. A metamorphosis. The story has little, but some similarities with 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore. Some say, it is a mature work. I miss the old Murakami.

村上 春樹: 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年, 2013.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

  1. Your final comment “I miss the old Murakami” is interesting to me. This book is not yet released in Australia. Having read all (I think) Murakami’s previous works – is there one author in particular you may recommend as being comparable to the ‘old Murakami’?


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