Cryptically colourless

ARTS_Murakami Review

‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage’ book review

By Joshua Grant, Senior Columnist


At first blush, Haruki Murakami’s latest work, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage might come off as a particularly miserable fairy tale. It’s written in that simple style, and magic seems to exist—not in the world as such but oozing out from beneath the carpets and pooling in the corners of rooms, mixing with dust and selfish tears.

Like in other major Murakami works, the protagonist is a lone male with emotional issues. Unlike 1Q84’sTengo and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’sToru, Tsukuru is principally defined by his relationships, or lack thereof. He feels that, compared to his ex-friends who broke it off with him under mysterious circumstances years before, he is colourless and uninteresting. The story is set in motion when Tsukuru’s new girlfriend sends him to find out what happened to his old friends, a High Fidelity-esque endeavour that takes our self-absorbed protagonist on a quest to learn “the whole story” behind important events in his life. But this mystery unfolds eerily, and the way that Murakami sets up the reveal, simply and without artifice, is beautiful. I won’t say any more.

If you come to Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki hoping for a tight mystery narrative, you’ll be disappointed. It has elements of mystery and fairy tale but don’t expect the pieces to fit. They will rattle around in your head, which is unsettling. It’s not an easy book to digest, but it’s also hard to forget. I’m not sure if it was a fun read, but it is a great book.