Haruki Murakami has always successfully imbued the magical into the ordinary, creating steel-and-concrete dreamscapes. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is aHaruki Murakami has always successfully imbued the magical into the ordinary, creating steel-and-concrete dreamscapes. The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is a domestic metaphysical odyssey; Kafka on The Shore an earthy, grounded fairy tale. Once in a while, he used the opposite modus operandi: extracting dreamlike panoramas from ordinary landscapes. Norwegian Wood is one such example in which college life, mental illness, suicide and fireflies fused into a slightly-burnt, sepia-toned Polaroid of coming-of-age story.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and HIs Years of Pilgrimage, in overall, is akin to Norwegian Wood in terms of tone and the depth of its root in reality. It tells the story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a colorless among the colored (all of his friends have an element of color in their name), in his thirty-something age trying to cope and find out why his closest four friends from high school ousted him so suddenly and forcefully after they had graduated from high school. For Tsukuru - who is cast in the same mold of many Murakami's characters: quiet, introverted, and seemingly lacking of ambition - they were the most important people in his life. His banishment from the group greatly affected him and for many years afterwards he has had no contact from them whatsoever. However, an unexpected development in his life forces him to revisit the four closest friends that he has had: Mr Aka (Red), Mr Ao (Blue), Miss Kuro (Black) and Miss Shiro (White).
This engaging book is anything but colorless. There are of course classic Murakami moments of cooking simple dinner and listening classical music (this time it's Liszt with Le Mal du Pays). There is also a bizarre character, a pianist with an interesting concept of transferable token of dying. There is love, a hint of marriage and a gut-wrenching jealousy (which is new in Murakami's work).
The underlying themes of this melancholic work are the impermanence of connections and the malleability of human identity. There is nothing eternal in this world, and so is circle of friends. For some people, their identity is tightly tied to the group they belong to and the dissolution of such group would be devastating for them. In the case of Tsukuru, it left a deep emotional scar which took some years to close, but should be opened again for it to be cured. Identity is also not an unchangeable thing. For years, Tsukuru felt that he is merely a background among vivid-colored human beings. In the same way, he is also the essential canvas of his friends' colors to emerge. In the end he realized that he is not a formless liquid who needs a container to gain shape, but he is a vessel whose definition depends on the substance it contains. He ultimately knows that he can decide what he wants to enclose in his life.
Again, this is a work of Murakami that is the least dreamlike. Hence, three stars from me since I really like Murakami's dreamscapes and flight of fancy. Murakami's works are supposed to make us expecting something magical to happen while we cook pasta and hear a crow's cry. Nevertheless, it is a solid book with an engaging story and characters. I was torn between four stars and three stars. I really like Norwegian Wood and this book offers the same flavor, but maybe it was because I expected something more that I finally three-starred it.
Digested: akin to Norwegian Wood, but not quite like it. Melancholy. Friendship. Identity Recommended to: all Murakamians....more