A Full Color Read: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Book Review by Paul LeDuc Pretzer

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This was my first encounter with Haruki Murakami,  long overdue I might add, and I was not disappointed. Murakami was someone I had heard of many times, and his quotes and snippets are ubiquitous on my social media feeds, but I just hadn’t gotten around to checking out his work, what with my TBR list already bloated and still growing. I finally sat down and read his latest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and now I’m wondering why I waited so long.

The storytelling feels effortless and seamlessly connects the past and the present. The story centers on Tsukuru, a thirty-six year old engineer who designs train stations in Tokyo, who appears to be sleepwalking through a lonely, bland, and colorless life. Realizing there are unresolved issues that are preventing him from moving forward in his life, he revisits a past he has left behind and thought was buried and forgotten. In high school, Tsukuru was a part of a tight knit group of friends who shared an extraordinary bond which was greater than the sum of its parts and created a sense of magical perfection within the group. For reasons never made clear to Tsukuru, he was suddenly and cruelly banished from the group, which had a lasting and transforming effect on Tsukuru. In his attempt to revisit the past and learn the reasons behind the event that ultimately shapes his life, he uncovers even deeper mysteries. Along Tsukuru’s “Pilgrimage,” Murakami explores the themes of isolation, identity, communication, and human connections. One of the most important aspects, for me, is that all of the threads woven within the story are not necessarily resolved, put in a box, and tied with and little bow. Often, resolutions, as well as the answers we seek, are hard to come by. As Tsukuru comes to learn, we can bury memories, but we can’t change history.

I loved this book and would suggest that you read it sooner rather than later. I bought a couple more Murakami novels and plan to work my way back through some of his catalog, “God willing and the creek don’t rise,” as my father used to say.  It is also worth noting that this is a beautiful book aesthetically speaking. I still very much appreciate when an author/publisher takes pride in the packaging of their book. Yes, book art rules.