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.
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;
What was your favourite quote?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).