Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage

Haruki Murakami

Harvill Secker, 2014

Set out almost in the form of a detective story, Murakami leads us on a quest for answers, both metaphysical and historical in his book, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of Pilgrimage. And it is indeed Murakami and not Tsukuru who takes us down this path, for the narrator often speaks in place of Tsukuru’s own voice when in fact it would be more conventional to have inserted a dialogue. Conversely, internal monologues read as though they should be written as a conversation: “He was young, and there was so much about the world he still didn’t know. And Tokyo was a brand-new place for him…” (p.22). This idea of either ambiguous communications or meaning ducking and weaving through conversations and thoughts only to be lost is pervasive throughout the book. Tsukuru is no longer is own master. This follows closely to the persistent feeling of many words left unsaid and lives not lived. It is common within Murakami’s stories for certain realities to be interspersed with others so that sometimes we are left with the feeling that many people could, at certain common points, have shared the same life: “He was, of course, Haida the son, but Haida the father had been his same age in this story, and so the two of them began to overlap in Tsukuru’s mind. It was an odd sensation, as if the two distinct temporalities had blended into one.” (p.65) This blurring of boundaries between reality and unreality is paired with intermittent reminders of sleep: the wakefulness and unconsciousness through which Tsukuru moves in an aimless fashion. In a sense it mirrors his obsession with death, as someone who is neither engaged nor actively disengaged from his existence; Tsukuru is never fully awake. Even when he assumes another life after his first metaphorical death it is only another state of half-wakefulness; “Tsukuru didn’t particularly like his new looks. Nor did he hate them. They were, after all, just a convenient, makeshift mask.” (p.41) Tsukuru has thrown off the death mask he had worn before only to assume another without much difference. Although there is no resolution, Murakami does at least allow for an emotionally cathartic moment to provide hope for another life for Tsukuru; “Sorrow surged then, silently, like water inside him. A formless, transparent sorrow. A sorrow he could touch, yet something that was also far away, out of reach. Pain struck him, as if gouging out his chest, and he could barely breathe.” (p.264) We can see he is beginning to feel the ebb and tow of his existence and that it is distant is more significant than if it were to roar down upon him. Finally, Tsukuru seems to be coming back to himself.

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