I was thrilled to bits when I received Haruki Murakami’s latest book from a friend since it has been almost three years when he released his 1Q84 and it has been highly anticipated by legions of the Japanese author’s fans, including myself. A huge thank you to you know who you are for gifting me with one of the most thoughtful gifts I have received in a long while.
Murakami’s newest offering is as expected oozing with his typical writing style and themes – a lonely man in his mid-thirties feeling displaced in a big city while harboring a deep sense of solitude.
Before jumping the gun, I would like to rave about the gorgeous design for the hardcover version published by Alfred A. Knopf of “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage”. The dust jacket features five cutout panels, four filled with colors and the last transparent to reveal the complex train lines in Tokyo underneath. When viewed from a distant, the cover forms the shape of a deconstructed left hand, a pictorial description tying in closely with the author’s writing.
“You know in a sense we were a perfect combination, the five of us. Like five fingers,” Ao raised his right hand and spread his thick fingers. “I still think that. The five of us all naturally made up for what was lacking in the others, and totally shared our better qualities.”
Story wise, protagonist Tsukuru Tazaki is a typical salaryman in Tokyo, who despite being financially comfortable remains haunted by his past where he was abruptly cut off from his tightly knit group of high school friends. These friends apart from Tsukuru all share a distinctive feature of containing a color in their last names – aka (red), ao (blue), kuro (black) and shiro (white). Only Tsukuru remained as the colorless Tsukuru.
“At the point when you agree to take on death, you gain an extraordinary capacity… You’re able to push open what Aldous Huxley calls ‘ the doors of perception.’ Your perception becomes pure and unadulterated. Everything around you becomes clear, like the fog lifting. You have an omniscient view of the world and see things you’ve never seen before.”
Stylistically speaking, there are no major surprises with many recurrent themes recycled from his other books, and that is one of the major criticisms of Murakami’s works. Yet in this pool of sameness, I stay drawn to his tottering on magical realism and Zen philosophy to pose some difficult questions about fundamental concepts towards time, space, love and life.
“No matter how shallow and dull things might get, this life is worth living. I guarantee it. And I’m not being either ironic or paradoxical. It’s just that, for me, what’s worthwhile in life has become a burden, something I can’t shoulder anymore… But you’re different. You should be able to handle what life sends your way. You need to use the thread of logic, as best you can, to skillfully sew onto yourself everything that’s worth living for.”
And to be honest, loneliness is not one of the easiest topics to write about for the lack of theatrics and extreme emotions, so we ought to give him credit for tackling it with such earnest.
Have you read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments down below.
Ending off with the main song inside this novel Franz Liszt’s ‘Le Mal Du Pays’: