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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Haruki Murakami's latest title was revealed to the English-speaking world recently with 'The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki'. It will be three years after the release of 1Q84, that the cult readership of Murakami will be introduced to the protagonist Tsukuru Tazaki, whose name, Tsukuru means ‘to create’ but is colourless.

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Picture the plot: The book’s first edition has a sheet of stickers (one section is shown here) designed by Japanese illustrators premised on the plot of the novel

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On the lines of the aura of a personality, Tazaki unlike his four other high school friends — Akamatsu (red pine), Oumi (blue sea), Shirane (white root) and Kurono (black field) has no signifying characteristic that defines him. The indelible melancholic atmosphere of Murakami is set from the start as Tazaki mulls over his desire but inability to commit suicide. The act of annihilation is propelled by the fact that this group of five high school friends — “an orderly, harmonious community” has banished him at the age of 20 for an unknown reason.

Murakami cover
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami, translated from Japanese into English by Philip Gabriel Harvill Secker, Rs 699. Available at leading bookstores.

From then to the age of 36, Tazaki’s maturation into an adult forms the subject of this book. Differing from Aomame of 1Q84 whose Shamanistic conception of thinking 1984 to 1Q84 as two parallel realities, here Tazaki inhabits a world that is more real but uncanny as people befriend and constantly disappear from his life mysteriously. Thus, unlike the thrilling tempo of 1Q84, the novel is like a hunch of feelings that lurk like an undeveloped thought in the mind — unarticulated yet persistent.

Haruki Murakami

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why the imagery and certain sentences come off as banal though one speculates if that is the protagonists’ limitation to access insightful depth into his being. The treat lies in Tazaki’s unravelling of the past, which like memory is constantly re-interpreted as he oscillates between thinking of himself “as an empty vessel” and someone who was headed somewhere.

The cryptic quality of the moon, Franz Liszt’s piano composition: Years of Pilgrimage — which gives the title to the book, the sexual act in itself surface like faithful fixtures in Murakami’s prose and ease the reader into a strange familiarity. Similar to the complexity of the musical piece that is described as “a groundless sadness called forth in a person’s heart by a pastoral landscape”, Tazaki’s quest to find the truth behind his friends ostracising him touches a chord.

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