Published by Atlas Contact on January 2014
Genres: Japanese literature
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Out of the blue and without saying why, Tsukuru Tazaki's closest childhood friends tell him he is no longer welcome in their group.
It’s already been two weeks since the Murakami Festival took place in Amsterdam to celebrate the release of the Dutch translation of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The book was published officially on January 10th, but participants to the festival received the book more than a month before.
The book is about Tsukuru Tazaki who, shortly after he moved away from his hometown to go to university in Tokyo, was told by his group of friends that they never want to see him again. Then Tsukuru, at age 36, meets a woman he maybe, possibly, wants to spend the rest of his life with. She tells him he has to overcome his trauma of being abandoned by his group of friends.
I have a hard time making up my mind on this book. I really love Murakami’s works, for several reasons. I love the ‘magical-realism’, not knowing what is going to happen and whether everything gets resolved by the end or not. I love how it feels like Murakami is always ‘writing the same book’, how characters reappear and all his works are intertwined, whether intentional or not. I love how his books touch me and I love how I am unable to explain how they touch me.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is different. It lacks magical-realism, although at some points in the book I had some hope we might see some. In this sense, the book is closer to Norwegian Wood than to his other works. The book definitely touched me with its theme of friendship and loneliness, in a way I haven’t experienced with any of Murakami’s other works.
However, some time has passed since I finished the book, and the more time passes, the more bland I think the book is. Not a good sign. Definitely not one of my favourite books.
We received the book a month early so we could prepare for the festival, where we discussed the book. The festival took place in 15 different locations at the same time, with one ‘book club’ of 150 people and the other ones smaller, 25-30 people. I must say this festival was a really fun experience! I picked one of the smaller book clubs to join and was lucky enough to end up discussing the book at the Cat Cabinet, an art museum dedicated to depicting cats. Couldn’t pick a better place to discuss a Murakami book!
The festival was attended both by long-time/die-hard Murakami fans as well as people who had never read a book of his before Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and anyone in between.
Some interesting theories on the new book (spoilers!):
Is Haida real or not? This was such an interesting question! I had considered the possibility shortly, but after discussing with our group I am beginning to think this is a reasonable possibility. Tsukuru doesn’t seem to meet Haida with any other people present, save for the swimming pool but there is no special acknowledgement from other people. Then there’s that dream (this was where I was hoping for magical-realism but alas). We aren’t even sure if the dream is real or not. It seems quite possible Tsukuru is just imagining Haida, then has this dream about his imaginary friend, is so embarrassed about himself, and as a result his imaginary friend disappears. We will never know. The book has two main unresolved plotlines: who raped Yuzuru, and what happened to Haida? For some reason everyone (myself included) seemed more curious about the latter…
And then there’s another unresolved plotline: Midorikawa… What do we think about him then. I thought it was interesting some people in the group thought the little bag he put on his piano contained his 6th finger(s). Quite possible. People were torn on whether the 6th-finger-story had any deeper meaning, but I suspect it might just be Murakami who’s telling us some interesting side story.
The significance of stations: people come and go at stations, no one stays. So can we compare Tsukuru to a station?
And finally, how colorless is Tsukuru really? Opinions on this varied, but I think despite everything: still ‘colorless’. But this might just be my opinion on the book 😉