Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
by Haruki Murakami
A lot of Murakami fans love the more surreal aspects of his writing. Me? I tend to like my allegories rooted in a concrete world. So I was very happy with his most recent novel, the story of Tsukuru (his name translates as “to make”) Tazaki, a 36-year-old man seeking to understand why, many years earlier, his once tight-knit group of teenage friends banished him without explanation. This group of three boys and two girls had been especially close, forming a cocoon of intimacy, comfort and support. Until one day when Tsukuru’s friends cut him off without reason.
For Tsukuru, “Alienation and loneliness became a cable that stretched hundreds of miles long, pulled to the breaking point by a gigantic winch.” The lure of suicide becomes that breaking point and although that lure eventually loosens its grip, this dark period from his past continues to haunt him 16 years later. So like any self-respecting (or self-deprecating) hero, Tsukuru sets out on a journey to unravel the events that led up to his exile.
At the beginning of his journey, Tsukuru has us believing that he is “colorless” and uninteresting. Even in his heyday among his former friends, Tsukuru was the only member of the group whose name didn’t correspond with a color. He interprets the coincidence as a mark of his character. It takes some time and some travels for our hero to start to see himself through others’ eyes and realize that the traits he has considered boring for all these years are signs of his creativity, focus and resilience.
I should make a habit of going back and reading the beginning of a book after I’ve finished it, which is exactly what I did in this case. I loved reading the story and following Tsukuru’s path but when I came to the end, I felt like I hadn’t fully grasped everything Murakami was trying to do. As I re-read the opening pages, it dawned on me that the story is an allegory for the transition between adolescence and adulthood. Once I considered the story through this lens, I appreciated it even more.
Do you ever re-read the beginning of a book once you’ve finished it? Have you found it helpful?