“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami
(First publication: 2013 / This edition: Vintage Books, Penguin Random House 2014)
Taken at an evening by the pool
What was real and what was imaginary mingled in his mind, and he’d tremble sometimes with the excitement of it all. (pg. 11)
After reading “Norwegian Wood”, I really thought I would never read another Murakami. I thought it was overrated. And that book being, you can say, his “most famous work”—I just assumed Murakami was overrated. (I know, I know; “When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me.” Yes, yes.)
I received this book as a gift last May… so it’s been on my shelf for a year and was only picked up again just a few days ago. I was in such a reading slump because of “Love in the Time of Cholera” and just wanted something different—something that wouldn’t exhaust my mind too much. I saw the Murakami that I put at the very bottom shelf, thought “Why not?”, and took it to work with me to read on the commute.
Much to my surprise, I actually really enjoyed it—I flew through the first 50 pages or so on the ride to work, and even snuck into Starbucks during lunch for an hour so I could continue reading it. After work, I took it to the pool, and even read it until I fell asleep at night.
One, I was glad that my reading slump was over. Two, I got this good, warm feeling because it’s set in Tokyo—reading about the streets, the train stations, the “typical” Japanese lifestyle, and the districts in the city that I consider my second home; it was just such a cozy feeling. And third, I found the story to be actually entertaining.
Brief plot summary: Tsukuru Tazaki was cast off from his group of friends—a group of five teenagers, all with such different personalities. Tsukuru had no idea why they cut him off so abruptly and with no warning. Almost two decades later, Tsukuru meets a woman, Sara, who was determined to find out what actually happened and why the other four just cut him off so mercilessly like that.
It has all the elements I read in “Norwegian Wood”—there were teenagers, a group of best friends splitting up because of some drastic event, death, depression, melancholic vibes, a hint of “haunting” feelings, angst, gritty sex, and loneliness in Tokyo. I felt like I was reading a similar story—but this one’s a bit richer and caused more curiosity. “Norwegian Wood” was too predictable for me—nothing was mysterious.
Well, to be honest, towards the end (maybe 3/4 way through) things got pretty predictable and draggy. I felt like the same things were being repeated over and over again and nothing seemed to get resolved—or it could’ve resolved in a better way. But the characters were somewhat interesting—and the story flowed well. You kind of empathize with the main character, Tsukuru Tazaki, and you feel his loneliness or “emptiness”. (This “loneliness” and “emptiness” feeling seems to be common in stories set in Tokyo, I feel—whether it be books or movies. Hyper-city, sensory-overloaded city.)
I enjoyed this one a whole lot more than I enjoyed “Norwegian Wood” and am looking forward to explore more of Murakami’s works now. Well, I still think he’s a tad overrated—judging from these two books I’ve read. But let’s see—I hear so many great things about him so… going to keep open.
Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:
Jealous—as least as far as he understood fit from his dream—was the most hopeless prison in the world. Jealously 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. Of course if he wanted to escape, he could do so. The prison was, after all, his own heart. But he couldn’t make that decision. His heart was as hard as a stone wall. This is the very essence of jealousy. (pg.39)
The world isn’t that easily turned upside down. It’s the people who are turned upside down. I don’t feel bad about missing that. (pg.63)