Each individual has their own unique color, which shines faintly around the contours of their body. Like a halo. Or a backlight.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the long-awaited new novel– a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan–from the award-winning, internationally best-selling author Haruki Murakami.
Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.
When a dear friend asked me an “odd favor” of reading Karuki Murakami’s novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, I didn’t hesitate. She had recently completed it and needed to talk to someone about it. Book talks with someone older than 17??? I’m in! I’m in a reading slump right now, being hampered by my teacherly-duty of reading and rereading the classics we are currently studying. The last book that this particular friend recommended was Want Not by Jonathan Miles, which I absolutely loved. No question, I agreed to help out.
I went home and purchased Colorless via Amazon for my Kindle and began reading it Friday evening. Within the first 15 pages, I knew that I was hooked. Begrudgingly, I put it down and made plans to rendezvous with Tsukuru Saturday afternoon. The Kindle app suggested that I would be finished with this book in less than 5 hours, which was correct. All the elements were perfectly aligned for the ideal reading session: rainy weather, overcast skies, a slight chill in the air, and a full cup of coffee next to my nest on the couch. Before I knew it, I was giving my 5-star review and desperately wanting more.
Five Things About Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
- Le mal du pays
I spent as much time falling in love with Murakami’s writing style as I did trying to decipher the many layers of symbolism throughout this novel. Per my friend’s request, she noted that although she loved this book, she was not “smart enough” to fully grasp all of the finer points. Once I began reading, I knew exactly what she meant. There are so many layers, so many strings of complex literary development that I had to stop many times to reflect. This is what good literature does. This is what makes this a piece of art, not just words on the page.
I jotted down notes along the way as I read. Below are some of the tangents my brain went on. They’re not organized efficiently or eloquently, but that’s for another time. I will be rereading this book and unearth pieces that I had glossed over the first time.
- The most obvious would be the colors; it’s in the title, each of the four best friends’ last names were colors, and its an easy system to utilize for deeper characterization.
- Gray – ambiguous; tarnished/shadowed white
- “Gray is a mixture of white and black. Change its shade, and it can easily melt into various gradations of darkness” (119).
- Green – jealousy; who is wearing or associated with this color
- Connected with the colors, the theme of jealousy also played out, and certain characters and settings were associated with green, the color of jealousy.
- A dream about having to choose between a woman’s body and her heart – learning what jealousy is
- “…the most hopeless prison in the world. Jealous was not a place he was forced into by someone else, but a jail in which the inmate entered voluntarily, locked the door, and threw away the key. And not another soul in the world knew he was locked inside” (49)
- Tsukuru is obsessed with train stations, choosing to become an engineer who designs them. The idea that without a station, there would be no place for people to stop, and without a mode of transportation, you cannot reach your destination.
- Journey, availability, moving from one stop in life to another, interaction with people
- “…the first step is actually building the station. Right? Otherwise trains won’t stop there” (336)
Le mal du pays – (homesick)
- Translation = homesick; wishing for “home” and comfort; what once was
Because this novel tells three different strands of Tsukuru’s life, there is an inevitable transformation theme. Naturally, one expects for changes to occur to them as they age, yet it’s the naive youth who believe that they can overcome this. As teenagers, Tsukuru’s circle of friends go out of their way to avoid any changes in dynamics within their group; Tsukuru is most ardent about this in retrospect, yet he is the one who chose to leave Nagoya for Tokyo for college. His character undergoes a drastic transformation, physically and mentally, after he becomes the outcast of the group. After spending sixteen years apart from his friends, the defining element of his persona, he undergoes a pilgrimage to discover the causation of his abandonment. All four of his former friends transformed from their original state, yet maintained some elements of their teenage selves, some more than others. By taking the extreme measures of acknowledging and directly confronting his past, Tsukuru was able to gain the insight into the why behind the decisions he made, both professionally and personally. He was able to transform from an outlier, an observer to an introspective and connected person, perhaps for the first time.