(Book) “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” Review

“You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them.”
– Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage


Whenever I think about a internationally-renowned author in Asia, one of the first figures that would come to mind is the name “Haruki Murakami”. This has been happening even before I got to his book; I have seen his name in book stores everywhere, and eventually, my curiosity led me to give one of his works a try. Without any prior knowledge to his writing style and theme, I dove into the cryptic world of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage ” is, at first, a depressing tale about a middle-aged man, Tsukuru Tazaki, who is working as a railroad company’s engineer, and his journey (or rather, Pilgrimage) to mend his old wounds; this is done in order for him to be able to live on in the present without being constantly, unconsciously, haunted by his troubled past. Gaining several insights along the journey, Tsukuru will undergo a change as an individual at the end of the book.

Since high school, Tsukuru Tazaki had been friends with four other individuals, each bearing a color on their names; Aka (red), Ao (blue), Shiro (white), and Kuro (black). The five had been friends even when Tsukuru moved to Tokyo due to his college studies. One day, however, an abrupt separation of the ties between Tsukuru and his other four close friends took place; the four decided not to see Tsukuru anymore, nor having any kind of contact with him. Dismayed and depressed, Tsukuru lived his life trying to bury the memory behind him, oblivious that the wound is slowly ripping his subconscious apart. With his girlfriend’s persuasion, Tsukuru finally decides to look into the bottom of the matter, for the sake of his life.

The ingenious cover design aside, the book is full of obscurity; from the characters’ seemingly philosophical dialogues to Tsukuru’s complicated metaphorical inner monologue, and even an equally confusing plot, this novel is bound to make its readers think while and after reading it. Heck, I even pondered the meaning of its cover before buying it XD. (I just realized mine looks like a hand, and they are not just colorful bars and a short bar as a map).

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” is not a mystery novel that tries to undercover the reason behind several unexplained mysteries in the book. Rather, it is a soulful read that explores the conscious and subconscious of its characters, namely Tsukuru Tazaki and his former close friends. So, if you expect an easy read, Murakami’s latest work is certainly not it; despite the fairly accessible texts, the ideas behind those paragraphs and dialogues are anything but shallow; it explores the very ideas of loneliness, isolation, letting go, moving on, and the concept of dying in a lot of ways, involving the complex flow of one’s consciousness and inner desires.



The story also has a sub-plot that is quite interesting! See that gray-colored figure there?


Too deep? Not exactly a problem; all those abstract ideas are packaged inside an engaging narrative supported by an interesting background story. To put it simply, don’t you find that looking into the bottom of the matter on why Tsukuru’s friends suddenly decided to dismiss him from the group interesting? Like, it makes you want to find out what exactly is the reason underlying their abrupt, or even cruel decision. It works for me, at least :|. With this simple hook and the fluent flow of the plot and sentences, the book can really be a page-turner. It is all the more so as you can grasp the development of the story even without thinking about it too much; the book makes sure that you can enjoy the commendable pacing and suspense before leaving you alone to ponder about the true meaning behind those cleverly constructed paragraphs.

Unfortunately, this work of Murakami’s may not suit everyone’s tastes. When a book makes you think a lot, even after an enjoyable read, it can only mean one thing most of the time: unsatisfying conclusion. For readers hoping for a concrete answers regarding the questions appearing in the book, they will be thoroughly disappointed as this is precisely the book that answers a number of the questions introduced, and then gives you more questions to think about. For me, I am personally fine with the nature of this book (and perhaps the common theme of Haruki Murakami), but there is this part within me that begs to know the answer into the questions given, which, unfortunately, are left unanswered, leaving readers having to interpret their own theories.

“Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” is about the main character’s attempt to gain realizations and discoveries regarding his complex thoughts and feelings. Once that has been achieved, however, everything is simply left behind; this is a book attempting to deliver Tsukuru’s metaphorical narrative, and after that is achieved, it discards the plot, as if it no longer matters. For some, it does no longer matter, but for me, it would definitely be better if we were told what would unfold next 😦 .

Rating from me: 3.5/5

What do you think of the book? 


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