I’m almost done with Murakami’s latest book, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Published back in 2014, I’ve only got around to reading it now, simply because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get a copy of it. Instead, I forgot all about it until I was browsing around on Overdrive, which allowed me to borrow ebooks from the library. I borrowed this and promptly got sucked into the urban bleakness that Murakami is so good at portraying.
(Potential spoilers lurk, be warned.)
The book centres around the titular character, Tsukuru Tazaki, who is an extremely boring dude on paper. He’s fond of train stations, and in fact, he builds them for a living with his engineering (?) company. He constantly whines about just how empty and ‘colourless’ he is, in the sense that his personality isn’t magnetic enough for the people around him to want to stay with him – his first bunch of friends deserted him, the one friend he made in college vanished suddenly without reason. To be honest, I’d be really annoyed by how angsty and whining Tsukuru was, if he wasn’t for Murakami’s writing. Somehow, he manages to put across Tsukuru’s complaints and loneliness without irritating the readers (or maybe just me). The story flows easily, and many times there are some pretty good turns of phrases (but there are awkward phrasings too, which is just the side effect of translated texts). T
While Tsukuru did not annoy the shit out of me, Murakami’s inability to write interesting female characters continue to disappoint me. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing, but his female characters are constantly boring and two-dimensional. After reading a bunch of Murakami’s books, they will start to blend together like one giant mish-mash of the quirky but not too quirky woman who will somehow spur the narrator along.
Not sure if I like the part about what happened to Shiro either because it feels like such a cop-out, and also, overall, I found that it would be more realistic in a way if the major characters were slightly younger than 36. Because still hanging on to things that happened 16 years ago and not being motivated to digging out the truth? Either I’d have moved on with my life or I’d have dug deep to unearth all the secrets that the people were hiding. In my opinion, the storyline started out strong, in which it was easy to just plow through the pages one by one by one, because you want to know the mystery behind Tsukuru’s abandonment, but after a while, you get kind of… disappointed, like ‘is that all, Murakami-sensei?! This is what you came up with when you gave us Hardboiled Wonderland & The End of the World, and Kafka on the Shore, and Dance Dance Dance’. Are you just churning things out in your sleep?
Instead of an old jazz record, we have Liszt’s Le mal du pays, taken from Years of Pilgrimage, as the theme enveloping the book. In fact, Murakami has even chosen to include the title in his own work, which seems fitting, since this book feels like a kind of bildungsroman for Tsukuru, even though he’s kind of old to be ‘coming of age’ in some sense.