Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki

25 10 2014

The plot in Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is as clean and sharp as the trajectory of a perfect golf ball shot. Which is a bit unusual for Haruki Murakami, whose plots often are expansive and unwieldy like an old oak with branches shooting out in all directions.

Basically, Tsukuru Tazaki is mercilessly rejected by the close circle of friends he belongs to as a high-school student. No reasons given. The rest of the novel is about how this rejection affects Tsukuru, and how he tries to work out what happened. The sharpness of the plot in this novel makes the central themes stand out with remarkable clarity: friendship, relationships, rejection and loss. And it allows for some very profound observations.

Tsukuru often ponders the fact that his Japanese name does not include a colour – his four friends’ names all contain a colour – and he concludes that this is symptomatic of his personality. He is, in essence, colourless.

I love Murakami’s light-touch approach to magical realism in this novel. The magic is there, but the focus is on the real world. I also like the little gems hidden in the text throughout the novel. “You can hide memories” but “you can’t erase the history that produced them.”

Tsukuru’s passion for train stations is another example of Murakami’s ability to find that one thing, that metaphor, that reveals what’s at the core of a person. Tsukuru watches trains arrive and leave a train station in the same way as others would attend a music concert. When colourless Tsukuru with “no personality” watches a train leaving the station, he observes: “Tsukuru had no place he needed to go.” This is just one brilliant example of Murakami’s incredibly economical and concise characterisation.

Just like in Norwegian Wood and 1Q84, Murakami places a piece of music at the centre of this novel. This time it’s Franz Liszt’s “Le mal du pays” from Years of Pilgrimage. If you’re not familiar with this piece, I suggest you listen to it when reading this novel. It certainly adds a dimension to the process of reading, and of understanding what’s at the heart of this novel.

Often when I read a new novel by Murakami, I think, “This is my favourite. This is his best he’s written.” So also this time.





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