I did say Tony was identifying huge holes in my reading with his J-Lit Giant Hall of Fame, didn’t I? Well there’s no hole greater in contemporary fiction reading terms than Haruki Murakami, and yet, I confess I’ve never really felt the urge to read him. It’s that reputation for the surreal and magical that dissuades me. So, when word went round that Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage wasn’t of that ilk, I thought I’d dip my toe in the water. Particularly as I love a quest.
Tsukuri is, you guessed it, in search of colour. As a teenager, he was part of a very close knit group of five. His four peers all had names denoting colour. This gave him a bit of a hang-up. He thought he was the boring one. Yet he was the only one to leave his home town to study in Tokyo. Not that his departure led to the break-up of the group. But something did happen which caused the rest of the group to suddenly severe all ties, irrevocably. The shock of this bleached the poor boy of any residual colour he may have had, and rendered him incapable of forming close relationships.
Time passes but the only friend he makes during his college years also disappears from his life without explanation. Tsukuru is convinced that the same character flaw is to blame and that the pattern will continue to repeat forever.
Years after this – now in his early 30’s – he meets Sara.
Let me say that up to this point I found the novel fascinating and psychologically true. As would anyone who has experienced profound heartbreak and gone through days, months, years even when waking up is not the favoured option. Sleepwalking through life, doing something to pass the time, until the pain abates. Such are Tsukuru’s college years. Very emotional reading though with too many sexual fantasies.
The story went off-kilter during the process of Tsukuru’s recovery. Didn’t believe Sara would be so discerning or insist that Tsukuru come to terms with the past before getting involved with him. Didn’t believe the setups for Tsukuru’s interviewing his former friends. Absolutely incredulous that not one of them believed the heinous accusations levelled against him and yet still flung him overboard, so to speak. How did that man not lose his cool?
And yet, Murakami says that Tsukuru’s experience is based on an experience of his own. Well, it’s a steep learning curve, and with friends like that, who needs enemies? Turns out the Tsukuru’s quest for personality is a actually a search to discover he already had it in spades. Which should give him the confidence to get his girl, shouldn’t it?