Here are a few thoughts I had while reading Haruki Murakami’s current novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. A book I didn’t hate, but didn’t particularly like, either. This includes hints at major plot points, so be warned if you care about spoilers.
This is the first time the prose of a Murakami book feels dull, overdescriptive, bland, to me. Most of the points I disliked about the novel might be intentional to make the “colorless” point, but I’m not sure if I can buy in. The book is an engrossing, fast read but not that enjoyable or riveting, barely moving at all.
The characters of the original five friends are really conservative in more than one way. Characters are repeatedly frowning when confronted with anything that is connected to homosexuality. Abortion is dismissed as killing a living thing. However, this is not a flaw but the design: The five friends are simple bland grownups in simple bland grown up lives with simple bland reactions to life and it’s problems. Even their deep revelations are grown up simple and bland. The big relationship reveals are also so so simple, bland, conventional.
The book is about what simple real everyday people find to be genuine weirdness. Not only the main character, but also the narration has an unnecessary, annoying fixation on female body parts and sex. It uses sex in the way that Real Literature™ uses it: omnipresent, slightly creepy, and always out of place and out of touch. The way critics love it in Roth, Houellebecq, Schlink. All the dirty old men. I’m fraid Murakami is turning into a dirty old man, too.
The strongest passages of the novel are also its most unsettling and most problematic (as it so often is.) The theme of connecting to old friends after a long time is the best part of the book, but only develops towards the end. Increasingly unsettling is Tsukurus obsessive dreaming about very young and/or dead Yuzu. The obsessive dreaming is almost entirely sexual.Yet here is also where Murakami is at his best: Tsukuru does and doesn’t question reality. His obsession leads him to ponder the possibility that there is a deep darkness in his colorless heart. In these passages there is the split between alternate realities, both probable within the context of Murakami’s Tokyo. But they are only passages, glimpses, embetted in overwhelmingly repetitive and bland obsessive sexual dreams.
The ending is kept open, is even hopeful. But after what has happened before, and especially by the world Murakami has created around colorless Tsukuru, an actual happy ending seems unlikely. Were the guy to get the girl, they would merely be enveloped by the increasing absence of color. Ultimately the novel leaves you dead certain that if only enough time passes, we all become empty, colorless vessels.
Have you read the book and have a completly different feeling? Feel free to disagree with me