2014 Book #38: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

2014 Book #38: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

colorlesstsukuruColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami‘s lastest novel, was released in English on the perfect day: the very day I was flying to DC from Louisiana and had nothing better to do than read all day. I’d been looking forward to this book since it was published in Japan, about a year ago. The translator couldn’t finish fast enough! I’m a huge Murakami fan and have talked extensively about his books on this blog. I really liked his last one, 1Q84 (though it wasn’t my favorite), and I was sure good things were on the horizon.

But Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki was a letdown. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a perfectly fine novel as long as you don’t compare it to Murakami’s best. He can do so much better. It seemed like he said to himself, “Well, I guess it’s time to write another novel” and did it without any real inspiration.

It’s about Tsukuru and his close group of high school friends who mysteriously abandoned him a year after he went to college. It’s been sixteen years, and he still doesn’t know why. He starts dating a woman named Sara, tells her his story, and she tells him that he has to track them down and resolve his issues if he wants to have a serious relationship with her. So that’s his real impetus: he tracks down these former friends to get a woman. Of course, as he meets with each of these friends, the mystery unravels, and so on and so forth.

That’s all I’ll say except that this would have been a much better novel if Murakami had ended it differently. Until about two-thirds through, I thought I might have found a new favorite Murakami. Then things slowly tipped downhill.

Again: It’s not a bad novel. It’s just not good for a Murakami novel. I didn’t especially like After Dark, either, but I’ve been planning on revisiting that one. I liked A Wild Sheep Chase better the second time around. I’m not sure what my favorite of his novels is, though it’s somewhere in this (short) list: Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Kafka on the Shore, Sputnik Sweetheart. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki isn’t half as good as the ones in that list. Why, you ask? A few things. There was a noticeable lack of cats and wells. Cats were only mentioned as parts of a couple similes, and wells were nowhere to be found. What’s a Murakami novel without a well? And, more seriously, while Tsukuru is not a flat character, his friends are. This important part of his life, around which the entirety of the novel revolves, just blends into the background. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll see what I mean if you read it. And the end. I guess I’ll put a short spoiler alert here: his driving force is a woman who is cheating on him, and he does everything to keep her, basing much of this devotion on the advice of one of these former friends. It just doesn’t make sense. End of spoiler.

All of that said, I’m already eagerly awaiting the novel that Murakami is probably still writing right now.

I’m at the point in the year (for the second time?) that I’m tired of writing book reviews, so I’ve been putting them off. I just finished reading this novel last night, but I listened to a fantastic audiobook version of Where’d You Go, Bernadette that I still need to write about. There’s also my current trip to Washington, DC, that might get its own entry. And the dog. We can’t forget the dog. I’ve got so much going on right now! I guess that’s a good thing.


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  • I found this post after typing “colorless tsukuru letdown” into a search box and hitting enter. Because I had the same reaction. If I hadn’t compared it to Murakami’s previous works, it probably would be a fine novel, albeit one I probably wouldn’t read. Romance isn’t one of my kicks. And that’s how it ended up being to me, kind of like a mix between teen literature (alienation from friends, erotic fiction (don’t need to go into that), bleak dream poetry, and romance. Really dry, logical romance. No larger-than-life mystical imagination characters, little, if any, dimension shifts, and not much in the way of movement. I ended up trudging through it in a day and feeling let down.

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Indices, etc, coming soon!