I picked up “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami right when it came out. I usually devour Murakami novels on my commutes, back when I lived in NYC. I don’t know whether it was this particular story or whether I lost that special time to read without carving that time out for myself again, but I just never finished that book, until now.
All of Murakami’s covers are unique, but this hardcover book had a great tactile feel and a satisfying collage image. I loved the compact little size. I am serious crushing on the aesthetics of this book. the colors used on the cover and in the story remind me of the stripe of colors of the cover of a Salinger novel.
This novel was approx. 390 pages, and a smaller novel in the vein of “After Dark.” Murakami short novels are very different from his short stories or his longer novels. I would never compare this to “Kafka On the Shore” or “IQ84″. However, I feel like it’s right to compare it to After Dark. Murakami novels get complex, but depending on the length of the work, the level of complexity varies (naturally). It’s dreamy with characters that come and go and disappear. There is a good amount of fantastical elements that make this a Murakami novel. The truth is though, his short novels always appear dreamy, like a short bittersweet dream, but never go to the abstract craziness of his longer novels. So, this tangent more or less just confirms that this novel was in the same vein of his other novels that are around this length.
The story for the most part is very settled with characters that are more or less real to the main character, with the exception of the character named Haida. Similar to earlier works, the main character is of similar age and demeanor (passive, shy/quiet, eats simple Japanese meals, etc.) as many of his other novels. He’s searching like his other characters from “Wind-up Bird Chronicle” or “Wild Sheep Chase,” just to name drop some other novels. However, unlike those earlier characters, Tsukuru us searching for a truth and his self. He’s searching for a history. It’s interesting, because his other characters in his earlier novels are searching for something similar, but it manifests as a lost best friend or lost wife. Or in the case of “Norwegian Wood,” it’s the loss of a manic pixie princess.
It ends like many other of his books. However, the realism in this book makes the ending… a little unsatisfying. There are so many unanswered questions. (One can only hope that this spans into something like the Sheep chronicles, where Sara’s history is uncovered.) This book left me wanting… more. It scratched my Murakami itch, but ultimately made it crave what he does best… which is craft long amazing tales. His strengths are still in long beautiful unconventional stories.