Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki - Murakami

Today I'm posting my thoughts about this book as part of a discussion occurring over at DolceBelezza. Feel free to join in. The questions were posted by Random House, and we're just selecting some questions we wanted to work with. I'm responding to Q's 1 & 2 primarily, however I have a feeling I'll post another review (perhaps part 2) in a couple of days with some more thoughts. 

Q1. What is the significance of the name of the novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage? Why is Tsukuru branded “colorless”? Would you say that this an accurate description of him? Is this how Tsukuru sees himself or is it how he is seen by others? What kind of pilgrimage does Tsukuru embark upon and how does he change as a result of this pilgrimage? What causes these changes?

I propose that Tsukuru is not so colourless, but more pastel. I felt that he identified as ‘colourless’ in contrast to his friends, whom he held in high esteem for their individual ‘colours’ or strengths. While I was struck by the concept that your name could have such a powerful influence on your character, I don’t believe Tsukuru was actually without character. He presented to me as a caring, compassionate and concerned person, even in his youth. As part of the group, they played with children while Shiro (Yuzuki) taught piano classes, and they did other community minded activities. I don’t think he participated in this out of mindless following, I think he saw that as important. 

I don’t think that it was inappropriate to call the book ‘Colourless Tsukuru’ because the concept did influence how I read the book. I think the title made me think more about who Tsukuru was and how he felt he was what his name meant. 

The pilgrimage he undertakes is both a personal journey of self discovery, and a journey in the physical sense to different cities, which represent his willingness to see  things differently. His friends never travelled far, which to me indicates their need to feel safe and secure, while Tsukuru was prepared to travel to uni and work. The when he was the one to make the pilgrimage to discover what happened in the past, he was the one to travel. The others didn’t. 

Q2. Why does Tsukuru wait so many years before attempting to find out why he was banished from the group? How does he handle the deep depression he feels as a result of this rejection and how is he changed by this period of suffering? Is Tsukuru the only character who suffers in this way? If not, who else suffers at what is the cause? Do you believe that their distress could have been avoided? If so, how?

I think he accepted the ‘banishment’ in the first place because he had faith that his friends knew what they were doing, but his reaction to it then was out of fear – he didn’t want to know why it happened. I think he ‘lived’ with the pain because he didn’t know any other way to react (not surprising given he was an adolescent male). Eventually he just moved on with his routine ways as a way of avoiding the pain. In true Murakami style, routine is an important strategy for coping. So many of his novels have the main character  living a simple routine. (perhaps that’s why I like his books, I like simple routines too). Other iconic Murakami characteristics appear here too – swimming, a glass of Cuttey Stark, listening to classical music, and sex – help Tsukuru to regain his personal meaning. 

Sara appeared to play a pivotal role in encouraging Tsukuru to take on the journey of discovery. I think it was a timely encounter, serendipitous, meeting Sara. She was a facilitator of healing because she was prepared to look at the story from a different point of view. She was bold in her assertion that she would not let this lie if it were her, and bold in her encouragement that this would be a significant thing for Tsukuru. I believe the serendipity of the moment for Tsukuru was that Sara was bold enough to say what she thought, and Tsukuru was interested enough in pursuing Sara as more than a friend, that he was motivated to do the journey, for her. He soon found the journey was for him. 

I think that each individual in the group of 5 was personally affected by what transpired. I think each one suffered following the decision to cut off Tsukuru. The boys did what boys do – plough on, forging out their existence, but not so boldly as to leave the town. The girls dealt with what they were facing. Eri (Kuro) felt obliged to carry on in the caring role. Shiro (Yuzuki) was also suffering, but perhaps she suffered all along. I think Eri had an extreme burden and experienced great suffering. Murakami captured in Eri’s story, something that many women the world around experience – responsibility and guilt. Eri’s story turned out positively, but it was a difficult journey for her. She suffered because she cared too much for her friend Shiro, but also because she lost her love, Tsukuru. 

I’m not sure the pain was avoidable. I think they group made the only choices they knew how to make then. We’ve all made similar decisions, and sometimes there’s no clear way of reversing the events that happened. Sometimes it takes a very bold person to actually identify and act on a wrong.
This book was not a typical Murakami novel, not surreal by Murakami standards. I felt an affinity with the story because this has happened in my life (and I suspect many others can relate to it too). Friends who share alot of their lives together, drift apart or suddenly part, with no further contact. I still have friends that I feel ‘dropped me’ and I don’t know why. 

One of the most powerful quotes in the book for me is this;

The past became a long, razor-sharp skewer that stabbed right through his heart. Silent silver pain shot through him, transforming his spine to a pillar of ice. The pain remained, unabated. He held his breath, shut his eyes tight, enduring the agony. Alfred Brendel’s graceful playing continued. The CD shifted to the second suite, ‘Second Year: Italy’.

And in that moment, he finally able to accept it all. In the deepest recesses of his soul, Tsukuru Tazaki understood. One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony. (near the end of chapter 16).
What was your favourite quote?


Bellezza said...

That's a beautiful quote you wrote for is here, one I hadn't noticed standing out before.

I like how you pointed out that Murakami's characters live a simple life, one which often follows a strict routine. I, too,find comfort in the "safety" of that kind of life. I have also been so intrigues about your idea that he was pastel rather than colorless. Perhaps that's about the most color he could achieve, and after he becomes more fully healed he can claim a bolder color.

Thanks for reading with me, Tsmara, and for putting such well thought out answers to questions which lack a clear cut answer.

Jeanie said...

Hi Tamara,

I can't really kick in on the discussion here as I'm not reading the book. But since I didn't have your email, I wanted to thank you for coming by the Gypsy and commenting on the wine post. Our next gathering is Wines of Australia and New Zealand, so if there are any you are particularly noted for, let me know! I think you mentioned syrah and some rieslings in your comment. Any favorite vineyards? It would be fun to bring something recommended by an official Australian! (I love syrah!)

Mae Travels said...

I read Murakami's book a few weeks ago in an e-book format... though I enjoyed it, I was a little disappointed that it did not follow his usual genre of Magical Realism, like Wild Sheep Chase and many of his others. I also felt that the incomplete plot was hard to interpret. Murakami made me want to know what happened next, and obviously the meaning of this mystery is important, but I'm not sure what to make of it.

Tamara said...

Bellezza, it seems that this book keeps me thinking... I might have to post another response.
Jeanie - I will drop you a line soon with some wine recs- I do believe we have some great wines here.
Mae, I agree with you - this wasn't the usual magical realism of Murakami, but once i realised i wasn't getting my usual 'fix' i was able to see the book as a 'message'. I hear there's a new book due out later this year - lets see what he brings out then!

Brona said...

I've enjoyed this book more and more with the passing of time.

The interior journey is the key here, which is why I think you need to sit with it for a while - to let it become part of your interior too.

Your great choice of quote brought it all back to me and made me want to reread it more closely.

I wonder also if Tsukuru accepted his banishment because he didn't really feel like he belonged all along; it was like he was waiting for confirmation of his non-belonging or his 'colorlessness' ?

Roy Cortez said...

One of my favorite quote from the book is:

"I want to be free - to go where I want, when I want, and be able to think about whatever I want." - Fumiaki Haida (pg. 72)

I compiled other quotes on my book review at the ff. link:

But the most memorable quote of this book is:

"You can hide memories, but you can't erase the history that produce them."
- Sara Kimoto (pg. 44)

It's what make Tsukuru moved with resolving his past and perhaps has an impact with our lives.