BANGALORE: Someone on Twitter recently remarked that since the new Murakami book Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is out, people could perhaps make a drinking game out of it: take a shot every time one of the characters feels ennui or does a chore. "You'd be dead by page 17," he wrote. It was hilarious because it was true. As loyal readers of Haruki Murakami's work, we have now come to expect certain characters to behave in a certain way and have certain tastes: they are usually single and live solitary lives, they are adolescents or are permanently stuck in adolescence, they have somehow been influenced by the student movement in Tokyo in the '60s, they love jazz, they are excellent cooks, they have cats, they play the piano, and they dress immaculately.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage has most of these characteristics and then some. But this book is not something you can put down or get away from. From page 1 he has you hooked, because Murkami doesn't play his cards too close to his chest.
From the outset we come to know that Tsukuru Tazaki is part of a close-knit quintet in high school. They do everything together and are closer than soul-mates. The only difference between Tsukuru and the rest of the group is that only Tsukuru doesn't have a colour in his name. The two other boys are called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine', and Oumi, ‘blue sea', while the girls' names are Shirane, ‘white root', and Kurono, ‘black field'. While this fact bothers him a little, it still doesnt stop the five of them from spending all of their free time together. However one fine day, he gets a call that he has been ousted from the group he so loves, no explanations given.
Sixteen years later, Colorless Tsukuru begins a journey to find out what really happened, one by one contacting each of the friends. "You can hide memories, suppress them, but you can't erase the history that produced them. If nothing else, you need to remember that. You can't erase history, or change it. It would be like destroying yourself," says Tsukuru's almost girlfriend Sara. This conversation is what pushes Tsukuru to find out the truth.
As an adult, Tsukuru hasn't grown past his adolescent years. He is still shy and likes to keep to himself. He is not very confident and has very little trust in his abilities. He has had a few girlfriends over the years but he is nowhere close to finding someone he'd like to spend the rest of his life with, until he meets Sara, of course. He has no hobbies except for swimming. He regularly has erotic dreams where he is having sex with two of his estranged friends (Shiro and Kuro).
This is Murakami's playground of course, where dreams merge awkwardly with reality. Murakami deals deftly with ideas of death, dreams, bi-sexuality, the darkness hidden in every person's soul and ultimately we realise that even Colorless Tsukuru might have a dark side to his otherwise meek personality.
Even with this book, Murakami cleverly interjects music into the lines of the story. Liszt's Le mal du pays plays as a melancholic background score to this novel.
Finally, the book leaves a lot of mysteries unresolved. Kafkaesque in its form, the book says so many things without divulging a lot of secrets, and this can be both good and bad.
We leave the book hoping the best things happen to Tsukuru from here onward.