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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novel Hardcover – August 12, 2014
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"A devotional anticipation is generated by the announcement of a new Haruki Murakami book. Readers wait for his work the way past generations lined up at record stores for new albums by the Beatles or Bob Dylan. There is a happily frenzied collective expectancy—the effect of cultural voice, the Murakami effect. . . . [Colorless Tsukuru] is a book for both the new and experienced reader. . . . The book reveals another side of Murakami, one not so easy to pin down. Incurably restive, ambiguous and valiantly struggling toward a new level of maturation. A shedding of Murakami skin. It is not ‘Blonde on Blonde,’ it is ‘Blood on the Tracks.’ . . . [The book’s] realism is tinged with the parallel worlds of 1Q84, particularly through dreams. The novel contains a fragility that can be found in Kafka on the Shore, with its infinite regard for music. Hardly a soul writes of the listening and playing of music with such insight and tenderness.” —Patti Smith, The New York Times Book Review (cover review)
“[A] remarkable novel [that] takes us on a spellbinding descent through the rings of hell in Tsukuru Tazaki’s young life. . . . A virtual symphony of literary and musical referents. Murakami’s wizardry lies in his ability to pack all that cultural and spiritual resonance into a book that is as tightly wound as a Dashiell Hammett mystery. . . . Murakami can herd the troubles of a very large world and still mind a few precious details. He may be taking us deeper and deeper into a fractured modernity and its uneasy inhabitants, but he is ever alert to minds and hearts, to what it is, precisely, that they feel and see, and to humanity’s abiding and indomitable spirit. . . . A deeply affecting novel, not only for the dark nooks and crannies it explores, but for the magic that seeps into its characters’ subconsciouses, for the lengths to which they will go to protect or damage one another, for the brilliant characterizations it delivers along the way. . . . A page-turner with intervals of lapidary prose and dazzling human comprehension.” —Marie Arana, The Washington Post
“Intoxicating. . . . It's hard to think of another writer who is as popular, as strange, and as lionized as Haruki Murakami is. . . . At first glance, you might think that Murakami has no overlap with that other writer whose work gets people lining up at midnight, J.K. Rowling. And yet they do have something in common. Both of them are comfortable creating their own specific and elaborate house blend of fantasy and reality. And as a result, they each shape a world that is recognizably their own. . . . The mystery of the spell that the great Murakami casts over his readers, myself included, [in Colorless Tsukuru] goes, as ever, unsolved. The novel feels like a riddle, a puzzle, or maybe, actually, more like a haiku: full of beauty, strangeness, and color, thousands of syllables long. . . . Weird and inviting.” —Meg Wolitzer, NPR
“[Murakamai] has opened his vision, his sensibility, to reflect the distances implicit in being alive. . . . More than just a story but rather a meditation on everything the narrative provokes. How do we connect, or reconnect, to those around us but also to the very essence of ourselves? Where, in the flatness of contemporary society—which in this novel, as in so much of his work, Murakami evokes with a masterful understatement—do we find some point of intersection, some lasting depth? . . . There is a rawness, a vulnerability, to these characters, a sense that the surface of the world is thin, and the border between inner and outer life, between existence as we know it and something far more elusive, is easily effaced.” —David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“Mesmerizing, immersive, hallucinogenic. . . . [Colorless Tsukuru] calls to mind Murakami’s career-defining 1987 novel, Norwegian Wood.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Bold and colorful threads of fiction blur smoothly together to form the muted white of an almost ordinary realism. Like J.M. Coetzee, Murakami smoothly interlaces allegorical meanings with everyday particulars of contemporary social reality. The shadows cast may be larger than life, but the figures themselves feel stirringly human. . . . This new novel chronicles a spiritual quest that might also be a love story. But here the author strips away the magical quavers of reality and the mind-bending plot structures that have become hallmarks of his work. . . . Readers find themselves propelled along by the ebb and flow of an internal logic that feels as much like a musical progression as it does an unfolding of events. The steady calm of the prose, the ambient rhythms of recurring motifs like Fraz Liszt's ‘Le Mal du Pays,’ and the close attention to repetitive patterns in characters' lives bring readers into a carefully measured cadence like that of Tsukuru's pared-down lifestyle. . . . Thanks to Philip Gabriel's discerning translation into subtle yet artful language, the novel[‘s] . . . ease and obviousness convey an internal complexity that you ‘get’ without realizing it. . . . Tsukuru's situation will resonate with anyone who feels adrift in this age of Google and Facebook.” —Christopher Weinberger, San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] feeling . . . lingered with me for days after I read Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, a feeling of having experienced some extreme vividness, some extreme force of emotion. I'm still not sure exactly what it was. ‘An encounter with genius’ may be the answer . . . . Murakami is like Edward Hopper or Arvo Pärt, his simplicities earned, his exactingly artful techniques permitting him a higher kind of artlessness. . . . [Colorless Tsukuru is a] sincere, soft-spoken story. . . . There is an intoxicating mood of nostalgia. . . . Tsukuru's pilgrimage will never end, because he is moving constantly away from his destination, which is his old self. This is a narrow poignancy, but a powerful one, and Murakami is its master. Perhaps that's why he has come to speak not just for his thwarted nation, but for so many of us who love art—since it's only there, alas, in novels such as this one, that we're allowed to live twice.” —Charles Finch, Chicago Tribune
“In Japan, and increasingly abroad, Murakami has become a publishing sensation. . . .Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is one of his most coherent [novels] and, in its tight and tidy way, one of the most satisfying. . . . The relative ordinariness of the plot notwithstanding, the story has pace and suspense. We want to find out what happened and what is going on in Tsukuru’s head. Dreams figure prominently as the protagonist tramps through the Freudian undergrowth. . . . Murakami can find mystery in the mundane and conjure it in sparse, Raymond Carveresque prose. . . . Those who miss the goat-heads and the demons and the parallel worlds in which anything can happen shouldn’t worry. There’s enough unresolved human mystery in this novel to suggest that they’ll be back.” —David Pilling, Financial Times
“Hypnotic. . . . Colorless Tsukuru spins a weave of . . . vivid images around a great mystery. . . . In the past decade, James Wood has convincingly argued that what the novel does best is show us what consciousness feels like. Murakami, in his own oblique way, has sharpened that objective to a mystical cognitive science: This, so many of what of his books tell us, is what perception feels like. . . . [He] elegantly describes how emotional trauma can lead us to disassociate. . . . The story flows along smoothly, wrapping around details like objects in a stream.” —John Freeman, The Boston Globe
“A reader opens a Murakami book with the expectation that anything can happen and that a story begun in realism will soon take off toward dreamlike realms. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki alights in some mysterious places but doesn’t settle there. . . . [It] is replete with emotionally frank, philosophical discussions. It’s a gentle ride, without the depictions of violence that sometimes occur in Murakami, and any traumas are recounted in retrospect, now covered with the tempering blanket of time. . . . Reflective.” —Jenny Shank, The Dallas Morning News
“[Colorless Tsukuru is] beautiful, rich with moving images and lush yet exquisitely controlled language, reverberating, like that piano music Tsukuru cannot forget, with elusive emotion. . . . Murakami's last novel, 1Q84, was a gripping, complex, surrealistic thriller that weighed in at over 900 pages. This one is less than half that length, far more streamlined in structure and essentially realistic, but no less compelling. . . . Fans of elegant, intelligent fiction will welcome this book.” —Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
“So taut and approachable—though it still retains [Murakami’s] cool fabulism—that it may expand the Japanese lit icon’s fan base even further.” —Boris Kachka, Vulture
“Moving. . . . Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki may be Murakami’s most human novel yet. . . . [When it] was released in his native country of Japan, it sold a million copies in its first week. That number is astronomical, especially here in the states, where Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices had a ‘strong’ opening week with only about 100,000 books sold. Calling Murakami a ‘universally respected author’ or even a ‘paragon of literature’ is no longer apt. The man is a cultural force unto himself. . . . [In Colorless Tsukuru] the staples of his work (stories within stories, sexual perversity, mysteries without real answers) all come together to form a beautiful whole. . . . It’s quiet in the same way Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead is, leaving the reader with that nostalgic feeling one gets when putting down a truly captivating story.” — Noah Cruickshank, A.V. Club
“Colorless Tsukuru had me hooked from the start. . . . A piercing and surprisingly compact story about friendship and loneliness. . . . Murakami skillfully explores the depths of Tsukuru’s isolation and pain. His nervousness when he begins to suspect that friends have shunned him—and his anguish when it is confirmed—are chilling. No mysticism needed.” —Jeremy Kohler, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Questions beget questions in this brilliant new novel by Haruki Murakami. . . . The premise is simple enough, but in the works of Murakami, nothing is simple. The endpapers for [Colorless Tsukuru] make this clear. A partial map of the huge, complex Tokyo subway system surrounds the text. Thousands of travelers pass through central stations on these heavily traveled lines. People intersect without ever meeting. Perfect for Tsukuru. . . . [It is] the gray area[s] Murakami explores so brilliantly. His characters’ lives spin out in the shadow of accidents and natural disasters that have plagued Japan in the decades since Hiroshima. . . . Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki has a strong storyline and sharply drawn characters whose motives are ambiguous: a perfect introduction to Murakami’s world, where questions of guilt and motivation abound, and the future is an open question.” —Kit Reed, The Miami Herald
“Murakami has a knack for swift, seamless storytelling. . . . Don’t be surprised if you devour Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage in the course of a night or two. Despite having an achromatic enigma as its protagonist, it’s shockingly seductive. . . . A quietly thought-provoking book, but some of its most charming and unexpected moments come in nicely observed nuggets that seem to be far removed from the main narrative, at least at first glance.” —Doug Childers, Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Accessible and often moving. . . . One of Murakami’s most endearing and enduring traits as a writer is an almost reportorial attention to detail, the combined effect of which gives you a complete picture while still feeling a little ethereal. Because, like many of the award-winning novelist’s best books, Colorless also is rooted in dreams.Tsukuru relates dark fantasies involving the people in his past in such a matter-of-fact way that the character himself isn’t sure they’re not real. As always with Murakami, it doesn’t really matter if they are real: It’s the feelings they evoke that matter.” —Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Spare and contained . . . so the few hints of emotional color stand out. . . . Because it’s clear that Tsukuru’s conscious and unconscious lives are almost totally separated, it’s impossible to trust his memories or his interpretations of events. That gives the novel an unsettled, unresolved quality that continues to hum after its disquieting conclusion. . . . Like many of Murakami’s books, this one has an implicit soundtrack. In this case, it’s Liszt’s suite for piano, Years of Pilgrimage, and particularly the ‘Mal du Pays (Homesickness)’ section of the suite. . . . Quiet, with disturbing depths.” —Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch
“Murakami confronts big themes (friendship, forgiveness, the betrayal of loyalties) with a sombre eye. His gift as a novelist is to locate the moment of crisis when a character loses faith, religious or otherwise, and life is exposed in all its drab wonder. Colorless Tsukuru, a work of lapidary and suspenseful mystery, goes to the heart of questions about human solitude and yearning to connect. Admirers of Murakami’s previous novels—Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—will not be disappointed.” —Ian Thomson, Evening Standard (London)
“Almost without precedent in modern times, [Murakami] has combined giddy popularity—in Japan, his novels can sell 1m copies in the week of publication—with the literary prestige of admiring reviews from giants such as Updike. . . . One reason for Murakami's huge readership is that, unlike many serious novelists, he is as interested in plot as prose. . . . All the author's signature flourishes are here, including a significant piece of music (Liszt's ‘Le mal du pays’ underscores this novel), an impressive range of cultural reference (name-checks include Arnold Wesker, Pet Shop Boys, Barry Manilow and Thomas Harris) and a deep interest in sex. . . . [Kafka] haunts Murakami's fiction as both an explicit presence . . . and a general tutelary influence. . . . [Colorless Tsukuru is] as adept as ever at setting up Kafkaesque ambiguity and atmosphere.” —Mark Lawson, The Guardian (UK)
“Murakami is one of those rare novelists who can turn our ordinary lives, whether conducted in Tokyo or Duluth, into something wondrous. . . . Few authors can endow the ordinary with so much enticing oddity. . . . It is a testament to Murakami’s power as a novelist that he can moderate the ebb and flow of reality with such singular confidence.” —Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek
“Spell-binding. . . . Strangely beautiful . . . intensely moving.” —Eithne Farry, The Independent (UK)
“The joy of [this] novels lies in taking another wander through Murakami-land where everything is suffused with an air of mystery and many questions are left unanswered. . . . Let [Colorless Tsukuru’s] peculiar beauty wash over you.” —Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express (UK)
“Oddly satisfying. . . . This kind of Murakami novel is like life, then, but less so yet somehow more so.” —Sean O’Hagan, The Observer (UK)
“A meditation on language and reference.” —Leo Robson, The Telegraph (UK)
“Hypnotically fascinating. . . . A journey of immense magnitude, both physically. . . and, of course, metaphysically, as Tazaki attempts to make sense of his own inner world and the dreams that shape his other dimension. There are always other dimensions in Murakami’s novels, and while they can seem impenetrable, they eventually feed into and help vivify the powerful personal dramas taking place on a purely human level. In the end, Murakami writes love stories, all the more tender and often tragic for their exploration of the multiple realities in which is lovers live.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Murakami devotees will sigh with relief at finding his usual memes – the moon, Cutty Sark, a musical theme, ringing telephones, a surreal story-within-a story (this time about passing on death and possibly six fingers). That the novel sold over one million copies its first week in Japan guarantees – absolutely, deservedly so – instant best-seller status stateside as well.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“One of Murakami’s more memorable protagonists . . . a testament to the mystery, magic, and mastery of this much-revered Japanese writer’s imaginative powers. Murakami’s moxie is characterized by a brilliant detective-story-like blend of intuition, hard-nosed logic, impeccable pacing, and poetic revelations. . . . [He] reveals Tazaki’s pilgrimage through stunning psychologically and philosophically charged passages that are alternately all too real and almost hallucinatory. . . Tazaki’s quest restores him to the cycle of love, loss, and resurrection that is time’s eternal flow in surprising, delightful, and sometimes frightening ways, none of which will be lost on lucky readers of this new masterpiece.” —Elle
“A return to the mood and subject matter of the acclaimed writer’s earlier work. . . . A vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Another tour de force from Japan’s greatest living novelist. . . . Murakami writes with the same murky sense of time that characterized 1Q84, but this book, short and haunting, is really of a piece with older work such as Norwegian Wood and, yes, Kafka on the Shore. The reader will enjoy watching Murakami play with color symbolism down to the very last line of the story, even as Tsukuru sinks deeper into a dangerous enigma. . . . A trademark story that blends the commonplace with the nightmarish in a Japan full of hollow men.” —Kirkus (starred review)
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Top Customer Reviews
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki has a compelling mix of the "old" and the "new" Murakami. For the first time since Murakami started to alter his style, the story is told entirely from the perspective of the familiar "Boku" character ... mid-30s, lonely, detached, insecure (in this case, about whether he is "colorless"--this will make sense when you read the book), on an unusual quest to reconcile a past trauma and lost relationships. The book is strikingly free of the "magical realism" present in some of his iconic works such as Wind-Up Bird and Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and tells a much more "realistic" tale more similar in concept to Norwegian Wood, South of the Border, or even his debut novel, Hear the Wind Sing ... but with considerably more maturity and psychological depth, I'd argue. Unlike the "old" Murakami protagonist, however, Tsukuru is not passive ... cool, but not dispassionate.Read more ›
If a reader is of a self-analytical bent, there will be much to potentially identify with in this book. If not, then this book may start something analytical before the last page is read.
The story line is so basic and the events so focused on it that there is little that can be told without spoiling it all. Discovery while reading is key to the enjoyment of this book. The things Tsukuru does, the people he knows, the work he does, the conversations he has all are entwined within the basic story element.
If you are already a fan of this author, you will find it to be less convoluted than some of his stories, yet deeper than it seems on the surface. If you haven't discovered the pleasure of reading Murakami's books, then this will be an OK place to start. As always, though, with Murakami you never know what will happen next, while you're still busy digesting what has happened already.
Tsukuru visits each of his former friends and talks to them face-to-face. He finds the boys still in Nagoya, and goes as far as Finland for one of the girls. When he finally learns the truth, it is disturbing. The fate of one of the five is as eerie, violent and sad as anything Murakami has ever written, although at a remove. We hear about it rather than witness it, a technique that keeps the attention squarely on Tsukuru.
Colorless continues the author’s fascination with the permeable barrier between reality and imagination, in which temporality and states of consciousness merge and overlap. Tsukuru has erotic dreams involving Shiro (white) and Kuro (black): we wonder if they are unbidden aspects of his unconscious or whether they have more sinister portent.
Murakami is extraordinarily attentive to the feelings of love and hate, injustice, jealousy and guilt that engulf Tsukuru. When a new friend, the handsome boy Haida (the name means “grey field”) appears in one of these sex dreams we know we are in a different reality. Haida’s story-within-a-story further confuses Tsukuru. Haida’s father is offered a “death token” that, among other things, heightens the ability to see colours. Is the story about Haida or his father? Is Haida even real?
Murakami often pushes the outer limits of language, using music where words fail.Read more ›
I know the Japanese culture well enough to know that the endings of Japanese stories are often ambiguous compared to western stories, but this is more extreme than I've seen before.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A mildly interesting but well written book about totally boring and ultimately frustrating characters.Published 2 days ago by David King
very fast paced book with interesting turns. Characters are well developed but the author has left a few loose ends to the story.Published 4 days ago by Michelle
Good writer, easy to read, different and complex at the same time but to many histories without ending..Published 6 days ago by Eva
Hated it. Absolutely dull. The characters were about as interesting as 50 lbs of boiled radishes. The dialog was completely ridiculous. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Mmmm
It was very well written, with fully developed characters. Some plot twists and introspection. However, I was not a fan of the ending as I felt that there was no resolution. Read morePublished 12 days ago by A.Priest
Bought this as a gift for my nephew as he is a big fan of the author.Published 14 days ago by Holley
I loved this story as I love everything from Murakami. Moody, evocative, and at the end a little bit unsatisfying. Read morePublished 17 days ago by D. F. Carnahan
I like this book for it's deep digging in soul and character of Tsukuru, for putting him in situation, any person could be in, and how he overcomes it. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Margarita Lerner