III: Japan

I’m a big fan of Haruki Murakami. I started reading his books when I was trying to learn Japanese. I read the books in English! Just out of interest for the culture and the country. The first book of his that I read was Norwegian Wood. It was really fascinating, and I was hooked.

Many of Murakami’s novels deal with the transition from adolescence to adulthood.  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is about a young man haunted by a great loss. It’s a journey into the past to mend the present. It’s about love, friendship, and heartbreak.

Tsukuru, the protagonist, doesn’t have a colourful surname, in contrast to his old friends. Colour, or the lack thereof, features heavily in the novel. The characters with colourful names seem to have nearly stereotypical identities. Colourless Tsukuru is 36 at the time most of the novel is set. It has been sixteen years since Tsukuru and his four friends turned 20. In Japan turning 20 is like turning 18 or 21 in many European cultures.  Although the novel is about this transition, it is told from the perspective of somebody much older. At times it felt pretty depressing, in my opinion, that there was this 36 year old guy that was still lamenting about things that happened 16 years previously. It was almost a bit frustrating, like he just needs to move on in life! Inevitably, his journey/pilgrimage does help him to understand his immediate past (the last 16 years) and his present, but also his future.

I really enjoyed the start of the book and the character formation. But, as with my experience with other books by the same author, I was disappointed by the lack of clarity at the ending.