Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
I really should have died then, Tsukuru often told himself.
Then this world, the one in the here and now, wouldn't exist.
It was a captivating, bewitching thought.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a Japanese novel written by Haruki Murakami. Being unable to read Japanese I read the English translation by Philip Gabriel, it is this translation that my review will be based on.
The novel tells the story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a single man in his mid thirties who lives and works in Tokyo. During his time at high school, Tsukuru was part of a close knit group of five friends consisting of 3 boys and 2 girls. The members of this friendship group all had names which included colours, all except colourless Tsukuru Tazaki. The five friends became inseparable and always made sure to spend as much time together as a group as possible. Even when Tsukuru left to further his education at an engineering school in Tokyo the group still remained in contact via letters and made sure to get back together whenever Tsukuru returned home. That is until one day when the other four friends told Tsukuru that they no longer wanted to be friends and he was to not contact them again. No further explanation was given and understandably Tsukuru fell into an extreme depression verging on suicidal feelings.
Tsukuru drifts through life without being able to form intimate relationships with others from this point onwards. Always feeling like anyone who gets close to him will end up abandoning him like his childhood friends. However, a promising new relationship forces him to address the events he has tried so hard to forget. His new girlfriend suggests that his old emotional baggage is preventing them from having a truly intimate relationship and tells him that if their relationship is to continue he needs to get back in contact with his former friends and find out why exactly they pushed him out of the group. 16 years later, Tsukuru is about to find out why his former friends no longer wanted him around.
This was my first time reading anything by Murakami and I have to say I was thoroughly impressed. To begin with I found the writing style slightly clunky in places but I am guessing this has more to do with the fact I was reading a translation rather than being a fault of the original author. This feeling didn't last long however and I was soon absorbed in the story. This is a particularly melancholy tale, with a lot of time spent with a depressed main character. I found the portrayal of Tsukuru's depression and anxiety particularly poetic and yet frightfully realistic at the same time. I often found myself agreeing with certain descriptions of how Tsukuru was feeling, having dealt with those thoughts and emotions myself.
Whilst the reason for the group of friends ending their relationship with Tsukuru is shocking you shouldn't expect anything else too exciting from this book. This is an exploration of depression, anxiety and the effect we have on other peoples lives no matter how colorless we believe ourselves to be. Murakami keeps you turning the pages as you read on trying to discover why such a seemingly close group of friends ended in such a sudden fashion. You want to find out what has become of the other members of the group. You want to see if Tsukuru can come to terms with what has happened to him and move on. Along the way there are some strange dream sequences and tales of weird occurrences that will keep you entertained as you move towards finding out the answers to all of your questions. Whether you will get those answers is open to debate. The ending is rather abrupt and leaves things open to interpretation but I really liked the way things were left. Without spoiling the ending for anyone I don't think it would have worked any other way than how Murakami has left things.
I would rate this as a 4.5 out of 5. I was really impressed and will definitely be trying more books that Murakami has written in future. There is a quote from a Guardian review printed on the back cover which labels this book as being “Hauntingly mournful” and I'm not sure I could really express it any better than that.