Review of Colorless Tazaki Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage


Well, I finally finished reading the new Murakami novel. I read half back in April when it came out, took a long break to finish my thesis and get a job, and then finished the second half on my daily commutes. It took another month or so to digest the thing, put the two halves together, write the review, and eventually come to a sort of understanding about it. I think I liked it. You can read my review over at Neojaponisme.

My reaction reminds me a lot of the way I responded initially to Norwegian Wood: the ending surprised me and I felt like I didn’t “get” it, there wasn’t enough “weirdness” like in other Murakami books, and I didn’t appreciate the basic character interactions.

Colorless Tazaki Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage isn’t on the same level as Norwegian Wood. Murakami doesn’t capture a period the way he did in that book (even if the emotional landscape of the lead character does reflect attitudes in post-3/11 Japan). In fact, he still feels out of touch with the times a little; Tsukuru is too quick to rely on the phone when most 36-year-olds would send a text/email or post on a love interest’s Facebook wall (“Hey Sara, I know it’s 4am and I didn’t want to disturb you but I was just thinking about that green dress you wear – it’s awesome! Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!”).

The book is far better than 1Q84, but Tsukuru reminds me a lot of Tengo. He’s introverted, passive, and at times incredibly frustrating; so frustrating that when I was reading I occasionally found myself pressing my temples with my fingers so hard that I nearly brained myself. But I think that’s kind of what Murakami was going for. Tsukuru is a wounded, flawed character who finds it incredibly hard to love before he loses his friends and even more so after the fact. His actions are supposed to be frustrating. I’m sure he wishes it was easier to put himself out there.

It’s no surprise that Tsukuru finds pleasure and comfort in the ordinary, the everyday, the predictable—hard, artificial, inhuman things like Chuo Line trains coming and going on a rigid schedule at Shinjuku Station. There are scenes in the book where he just sits and watches them come and go.

I’ll be interested to see how the translation goes. Thanks again to Matt Treyvaud, David Marx, and Ian Lynam for the edits and art. Matt made an important change in the text of my review—initially I’d written Tsukuru’s friends’ names as Ao, Aka, Shiro, and Kuro, but he changed them to Blue, Red, White, and Black, which, for me, totally changed the feel of the review and made me realize that Phillip Gabriel might translate the book that way. I’ll be interesting to see if he does so.

(Graphic courtesy of Ian Lynam and Neojaponisme.)

Tazaki Tsukuru and the Amazing Technicolor DREAM Liveblog!

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I was messaging with a buddy from my JET days yesterday who was proud to have just finished slogging through the English translation of 1Q84. He lives over on the West Coast and teaches Japanese (or at least he did…and I think he still does), so I figured he may have had access to the new Murakami book before me. Grumbling, I asked him if he had a copy: I was prepared to be very jealous. He wrote, “just looked at to see if they had a kindle version out, but surprise surprise :-/”

Kindle! I hadn’t even thought of looking on the Japanese Kindle store when I preordered my copy of 色彩を持たない田崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年 (Shikisai wo motanai Tazaki Tsukuru to, kare no junrei no toshi; hereafter referred to as Tasaki Tsukuru or TT) on 22 March. Like a good fanboy, I just loaded in my credit card and said TAKE MY MONEYS FOR YOUR INTERNATIONAL EXPRESS SHIPPINGS. I will be glad to have a paper copy when it arrives later today (hopefully; taking notes is good), but it’s too bad that the Japanese Fear of the Internet prevented me from celebrating instantaneously along with everyone else: Wouldn’t that have been fun?! There are some books on the Japanese Kindle store, but perhaps not surprisingly, no Murakami books other than his translations.

No matter. 2013 is a year of deadlines, a year of unpredictability, a year of friends in Japan with scanners who may or may not have sent me things via email, a year in which the San Antonio Spurs have too many injuries to make a proper playoff run, and a year in which I will (if everything goes smoothly) be conferred with an MFA in fiction from the University of New Orleans for writing stories about pirates; so, like a good pirate, I begin my liveblog of this newest Murakami novel at 4:37am CST because I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep, checked my email, and saw that I had received a very nice message indeed.

This liveblog will continue helter skelter over the next few days. I teach and have class and a few things I need to take care of, but I’ll hopefully be able to get in a few hours of reading here and there. I predict I’ll get in a good long stretch in the middle of the day today and another Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Join me! I’ll be celebrating; you should too. Continue reading