Haruki Murakami is an author known for building fantastical and jarringly realistic worlds and placing them in the form of a typical bildungsroman. His newest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (CTTHYP) focuses on the story of a man named Tsukuru Tazaki that is similar to other Murakami protagonists. Essentially if you want a book that breaches a decent middle ground within Murakami’s style, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the book for you.
The protagonist of the novel is introduced as an average upper middle class man living in present day Tokyo, Japan. His name is Tsukuru, which is a homophone for “to make or to build” in Japanese. He is utterly fascinated by railroad stations and is suffocated by the hollowness he feels from being abandoned by his four best friends during his second year of university.
Like in many of his novels, Murakami sweeps the audience into the privileged world of the Japanese upper middle class. The protagonist explores his “colorless” disposition by recounting his childhood and how he became very close friends with four other kids who were similar to him socioeconomically. However, Tsukuru is the only member of the close-knit friend group who lacks a surname related to a color. The audience is able to view the process of Tsukuru, disengaging from their near cult-like friend group and attending a school away from their hometown in Tokyo. This causes their ritualistic friendship to become strained and eventually Tsukuru is shunned from the group without any explanation during his sophomore year of college.
As a thirty-six year old man, Tsukuru opens up to Sara, a woman he drawn to more than any other woman he has ever encountered. He confesses his emptiness from his lack of close-knit structured friendship to Sara. She suggests that he go on a pilgrimage to find them. As the novel progresses her desire for him to connect with his former friends becomes more urgent as she begins to acknowledge the lack of “color” within Tsukuru’s spirit seems to be blocking Sara and Tsukuru’s relationship from progressing. Sara gives Tsukuru an ultimatum: reconnect and fix his relationship with his former friends and be with her, or live a colorless life alone. Sara essentially forces Tsukuru into a pilgrimage to better understand his sorrow, not unlike, Norwegian Wood.
Pretty much in every Murakami novel, a female influences the male protagonist into gaining a better spiritual understanding. It should be noted that within Murakami’s universes women tend to be hypersensitive to the supernatural world and subconscious dealings within character’s minds. They almost become these prophet-like figures that aid the protagonist not only spiritually, but tend to provide pleasure for them sexually as well. Women tend to create a sense of utility within the otherwise complex world within his novel.
Within Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Sara is no different. Sara is an older, more sophisticated woman that seems to baby the protagonist into gaining a backbone. While most Murakami protagonists tend to be very passive until pushed into a dramatic situation, Tsukuru seems particularly helpless due to the sheer amount of time he allowed his loneliness to fester. Likewise, many times during his “pilgrimage” the purpose of him seeking the truth is lost because the protagonist seems to be interested only in how his spiritual progress can assist him in his relationship with Sara. In fact, the large turning point at the end of the novel is still centered on Tsukuru and Sara’s relationship.
Although this book can be considered a coming-of-age novel, it can be argued it is more of a romance. For Tsukuru’s pilgrimage is really in order to get closer to Sara. However due to the complexity of novel, one can never be completely sure how far a character’s action leans towards a certain outlook. This opaque way of viewing characters provides a very realistic seed of doubt within the reader’s mind. Overall, I give this book a 4 out of 5. For it was an engrossing and complex read, however, the world was very small and constricting. It failed to properly satisfy the strong romantic thread provided within this novel. In addition, Murakami was able to create a smooth and lifeless world based in a rich urban center that was both believable and ubiquitous. It is definitely worth checking out.

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About The Author

Book Reviewer

Hello, I am a 20 year old senior at the University of Alabama double majoring in English and Dramatic Writing and Directing. Literature is absolutely the best thing in the world to me and I want to share my love of literature with the readers of The Planet Weekly.

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