Thursday, September 11, 2014

'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage' by Haruki Murakami

11 September 2014

The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami combines critical acclaim with huge popularity and the publication of a new Murakami book now feels like a major event. I'm very much a fan and I rushed to read his latest novel, 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage' (which I read as an unabridged audio book, translated by Philip Gabriel and narrated by Michael Fenton Stevens). After the enormous magical saga of Murakami's previous book, ''1Q84' (reviewed here in April 2012), 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage' is a smaller, calmer, more serious work. There is no magic realism (though the symbolism of erotic dreams again plays a significant part). This is essentially a gentle love story. Tsukuru Tazaki is a 36-year old engineer whose life has been haunted by the mystery of his sudden expulsion, 16 years ago, from a close group of school-friends. Tsukuru never knew why his four best friends suddenly rejected him and finally decides to try to find out what happened. Murakami's writing has a compellingly odd quality. His prose is terribly precise and careful and most of his characters behave in a very logical, straightforward way, but somehow he makes you feel the presence of something deeply mysterious and intriguing in his narrative. Nothing appears to be missed out but you get the impression that the most important things are not being said. Tsukuru Tazaki is likeable and sympathetic but a little dull – but is there anything wrong with being an empty vessel? I enjoyed being back in the strange world of Haruki Murakami and found myself gripped by Tsukuru's pilgrimage, though I missed the humour of some of the earlier novels.



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