Haruki Murakami is not everyone’s cup of green tea. His bizarre switches from reality to fantasy can leave more conservative readers both baffled and slightly put out. Talking cats, men being flayed in Mongolian deserts and people inexplicably trapped at the bottom of wells are a few of his more memorable flights of fancy. Yet now and again he creates a book that is a little more straightforward but equally as mysterious as his more surreal work. For example, ‘Norwegian Wood’ was more of a modern romance, full of poignancy and longing and now there is ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage’.
It is the tale of the aforementioned Mr. Tazaki, who one day finds himself ostracized from his four closest, and indeed only friends, for a transgression that he is never told of.
Banished to a friendless wilderness he is left to lead a solitary and lonely life only enlivened by his job creating railway stations (a fitting occupation for man who; first name means maker in Japanese).
Only the arrival of two new friends, one bearing a recording of ‘Liszt’s Years of Pilgrimage’ and the other the possibility of love, begin to start changing his understanding of himself.
For Tsukuru left on his own is incapable of seeing who he really is. In fact he is almost a hollow cipher of the world around him until he allows himself to be bathed in the light of others.
In this way it’s quite an unusual tale in that often a pilgrimage is about journeying inward but in Murakami’s tale journeying inward really takes you nowhere like arriving at a station with no tracks. Only when you journey out and connect with others does understanding occur. Suddenly a man who was colorless is drawn right front of our eyes through the descriptions of his friends, as charming, handsome and admired.
As Murakami himself stated in his acceptance for the Jerusalem Prize
“I have only one reason to write novels, and that is to bring the dignity of the individual soul to the surface and shine a light upon it.”
In ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki’ he succeeds admirably.