Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru and his Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
By Haruki Murakami
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385352109, August 2014, 400pp.)

The Short of It:

Loss, longing and the power of memory. This novel is like a drug. I was mesmerized while reading it.

The Rest of It:

This is classic Murakami…and not.

Every time I discuss this book with another fan, we end up agreeing that it’s a classic but at the same time I cannot help but peg it as ‘different’ in some way. Let me tell you about the story first. It’s about a guy name Tsukuru Tazaki. He had some good friends in high school, two boys and two girls. They completed one another and there was no hint at all, that their relationships would not last. But to Tazaki’s surprise, all four friends stop talking to him. Instead of investigating further, he decides that he is the one “without a color” as all of their names represent a color and his does not. In his mind, he is the outcast and seriously considers ending his life.

But as he goes through life simply existing, he meets two key individuals that force him to reconsider. One is a friend who has many similar likes, and yet he maintains an air of mystery that Tazaki cannot explain. The other, is a girlfriend who forces him to seek out his friends to put closure on the situation. She asks him to do this before they can take their relationship further, and in his eagerness to move into the next stage of their relationship, he decides to find them and hopefully find out why they abandoned him so many years ago.

As a long time fan, I find that this novel is a mix of old and new. It’s much more straight-forward in the telling. There are a couple of elements that could be fantastical in nature, but overall, the story is simply told. The themes that I’ve come to expect from Murakami are all here. His characters are always these lonely souls searching for something or someone, there is always the question of, is it real or is it a dream? As a reader, you can’t be sure. The story can be interpreted many different ways and that is what makes this such an exciting read.

Many of his books can be “out there” with the talking cats, the sexy ear lobes, the awkward sexual encounters and the like but even though that stuff can catch you off guard, they are SO Murakami to me, that I missed them in this novel. Missed them, but not enough for it to affect my enjoyment of the novel itself. It’s a different type of book for him and it has me wondering if he is evolving as a writer. I know writers do at some point, but this work is decidedly different in tone. I still loved it, but I always wonder if the writing has changed or the translation had something to do with it.

It’s getting harder to choose a fave these days. To date, I do believe that Kafka on the Shore is probably my favorite but it was also my first and probably the most wild of his books. However, Colorless is probably right up there but for different reasons. One of which, is that a very similar thing happened to me a few years ago. Friendships can be complex to figure out in general but when they go wrong, sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to why and it’s baffling. I cannot to this day make sense of what happened to me and at this point in time, I don’t want to waste the energy trying to figure it out but it sure makes for some good reading when it’s happening to someone else!

If you want to give him a try, start with After Dark. It’s not too long but has a good mix of what I’ve come to recognize as his signature style.

Murakami recently announced a short novel to be released in the US this December. What? Yep! Another one! This one is called The Strange Library and let me tell you, it sounds like it’s back to surreal city. I. Cannot. Wait!

Special note from Ti:

When I was chosen to be a Fan Ambassador for Colorless, I was given a few copies of Norwegian Wood to giveaway. I will be posting that giveaway soon but wanted to give you all a heads-up since I gave one away recently via Facebook and some of you might have thought you missed it.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

15 thoughts on “Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”

  1. I loved this one and was especially impressed by the detail in the book design, jacket, clover, pages etc. Thanks for the head’s up on the Dec release.

  2. I can’t help wondering how comments Murakami made in the book on the sameness of every day for the average commuter/worker on the long train rides fit into this novel. Everyone seems the same on those trains – colorless…I think he may also be making a statement on the current commuter society in the big city, only one of many statements he always makes! Nice review and interesting points about his book in your review!

  3. Your enthusiasm has made me want to try this author but I’ve hesitated because I’m not comfortable with “out there” books. Since this one is more straightforward it might be more to my liking.

  4. I am so glad that this one lived up to your expectations…even if it wasn’t as odd. I like the themes here — the loss of friendship and the quest for why. Sounds like a good one.

  5. You think Kafka is more out there than Wind-up? It’s been so long since I’ve read Kafka that I can’t quite remember (I DO remember it being out there, but so was Wind-up). I can’t remember, have I asked you what you thought of 1Q84? I have it, but it’s so long.

    Glad you enjoyed this one! Even if it did feel a little different.

    1. Kafka was my first experience with Murakami so it might have seemed more out there than Wind-up, because I wasn’t used to his style but the whole cat killing thing, and Johnnie Walker being so strange and the guy who had a thing for his mom, etc. Seemed very weird to me. Plus, I listened to part of it and it was so well acted out, that it was just totally bizarre and strange. Wind-up was more dream-like surreal, alternate reality type stuff which made it easier to swallow.

      1Q84. Dare I say it, bored me a tiny bit. I loved the premise of the alternate worlds but I think it would have been better in installments which is how it was published in Japan. I needed some downtime between the books within it but I didn’t take time for that and sort of rushed it. I think because of that some of its meaning was lost on me. I need to re-read it.


    1. It’s funny how some readers absolutely will not read him because his stuff can be out there but they are missing out. They may not love him in the end, but his books always leave you with a lot to think about. This would be a good book for a newbie because it is rather tame but to get a real feel for his style, I think some of his short story collections or After Dark would be good to start off with.

      He’s written so many books and all of them, come 2015 will be translated into English so eventually his name will be known.


  6. I haven’t read anything by this author yet, but I have a couple of his books in my TBR collection. This one, for some reason, especially appeals to me. Maybe because I keep hearing it is more straightforward–so it doesn’t sound so intimidating (surreal and I don’t get along well most of the time).

  7. That book is just so darned cute too. I had to pick it up and stroke it at the book store. (I almost bought it.) I have Kafka on my Kindle, and I never seem to get around to reading it, but I will, I swear. I have to build up my endurance…Wind Up Bird took it out of me!

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