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What made the experience of listening to Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage the most enjoyable?
The wonder of living now is that Murakami is writing - and regardless of whether the books are big and strange, or small and eloquent, or small and decidedly weird, its a privilege. The narration of this is quite perfect - its a novel that has a quiet way of slipping in - and while it isn't my favourite Murakami (The Wind Up Bird Chronicle is flawless) is it still liqueur.
This was my third Murakami novel, prior to this I've read 1Q84 and The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. By the half way point I realised this book was very different from my previous experiences with Murakami, in that this is a fairly straight forward novel, where as both Wind Up Bird and 1Q84 are long, sprawling and surreal. There are still hints of the surreal here, but there is never any melding between the plot and fantasy as I've read in his other work.
The plot for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is very simple - Tsukuru is a man nearing middle age who lives a solitary life when he starts dating a woman named Sarah. After getting together a few times, Tsukuru tells Sarah that he had once been part of a close group of 5 school friends, but as they approached adulthood, he was suddenly evicted from the group one day for no apparent reason. He becomes depressed and lives the rest of his life from this point almost friendless, working as a train station designer with a resigned acceptance of how things have turned out for him.
Sarah tells him that she doesn't want to continue the relationship until he deals with his past so she convinces him to go back and visit his old friends to find out why they had rejected him so suddenly and strongly. With this, Tsukuru sets off to talk to his old friends individually and finally learns why they had abandoned him.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is a meditative exploration of a man's loneliness, confusion and search for a spark to re-ignite his enthusiasm for life after the hurt of being abandoned so unfairly by his friends. Having read 2 Murakami books previously, I wasn't expecting an ending where everything or at least something ends up neatly resolved, but this comes close at least, and for that reason the ending is more satisfying than both Wind Up Bird and 1Q84.
I wasn't a fan of the narration - the "Britishness" and "properness" of it was a mistake - Murakami is a writer of quirkiness, and while the words and characters in the novel express that, the narration doesn't.
I think the essentials of Murakami’s craft should be clear by now, no matter which book has been the door to his art: life and reality as a form of fiction, art as life, love as art, death as the long journey from the anteroom of life. Yet his books are not pessimistic or cold, but rather celebrate life in the smallest moments, and this humanity transforms all the narrative opulence into life-affirming art.
Murakami's gift is that he's able to make us unsure of our footing, of where or who we are, or who the characters we see are, and where they're going. He does it with such slyness it's as natural as breathing. We see not much happening, but somehow we have that ever-intensifying feeling that behind the curtain something grand is slowly taking shape, the pieces of the universe are falling into place and soon the cosmos will reveal itself unto us. This kind of fantastical realism is not a mirror but a window, not the cloud but the sky beyond, a simple gesture that makes one gasp as the universe is revealed.
Indeed, ”Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimate” is hardly unlike the rest of the Murakami that I know: the surface is calm, lingering, leisurely, yet beneath the surface there's another world entire, fierce and full of dark brooding. It's them, it's us. Loneliness, hunger. Warmth, comedy. The wheel turns.
While I adored the first two-thirds of ”1Q84”, I found it too long for my taste and far too overbearing towards the end. And while I am already anxiously waiting for the "next new Murakami”, whatever that may be and whenever it may see the light of day, I welcome ”Tsukuru” as a wonderful work of just the right length: it never meanders, it’s focused and strong because of this, and for me the whole is as satisfying as I had expected. I think this is one of his strongest explorations of human relationships, and the complex web of human interaction, and, ultimately, of cause and effect.
Michael Fenton Stevens’ narration is beautiful: there’s such warmth and familiarity in his voice and enunciation that I had the feeling this was an old telling a story to me intensify to the extent I had to check from Audible whether I had listened to him before. I don’t think I have. As as a narrator he’s superb, and I love his accent and how he’s courageous enough to take his time. I think Gabriel’s translation is also superb.
23 of 24 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage? What did you like least?
Let me make it clear that I am a huge fan of Murakami. Whenever life gets me down I reread or relisten to Kafka on the Shore or 1Q84 or the Windup Bird Chronicles or.....You get the idea. But I had something of a bad feeling about this one from the start. American translation read ever so carefully by British narrator sounds awkward. But once we get into the story I'll forget that. Except that there really isn't much story to get into. No magical realism - ok I knew that from the reviews - just people talking - and talking - and talking. OK, they talk in different places and we do get a trip to Finland where the best writing happens in a scene overlooking a lake which has all the tenderness and poignancy of the best of his work. But otherwise to be honest it's the first Murakami I haven't enjoyed much. Reviews compare it to Norwegian Wood but in that we have a strong dramatic thread which is completely lacking here.
What was most disappointing about Haruki Murakami’s story?
As colourless as the title
Did Michael Fenton Stevens do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?
Errm - while he reads very well I felt all the characters were as colourless as each other.
Was Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage worth the listening time?
Not really except for the Finland section
Any additional comments?
If you are new to Murakami please don't start here! Start with something like Kafka on the Shore which is a fantastic listen.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Beautifully written, an enticing story from an extraordinary writer. The reader handles it superbly. Not quite as strange as some of his other works
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Can't start playing the book. When I click on the app and play the chapter I want.. The error says this chapter hasn't been downloaded yet.. But I downloaded the book at the start when I purchased it. But now stuck on chapter 16 and can't get this rubbish app to work.