Book Review: Colorless Tsukuru

September 21, 2014



Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami is an emotional and though-provoking novel about loss and moving on. The protagonist, Tsukuru Tazaki goes through a traumatic event, whereby his four closest and dearest friends leave him without any form of explanation. Unable to deal with the sudden loss, he is crippled with the fear of forming close relationships with anyone new. He has drifted through life ever since. 

Being an avid train lover and train engineer, Tsukuru surveys the wave commuters entering and leaving the station. However, he realizes that unlike these commuters who are all heading to a certain destination, he himself has nowhere to go. 

Tsukuru's emotions are hauntingly familiar, feelings most of us have experienced. He grieves from loss and is bewildered and scarred by the departure of his friends. He has barricaded his heart and numbed his emotions. and has developed a fear of falling too deeply in love. He questions the very meaning of life. 

Above all, this traumatic loss caused him to feel incredibly alone and invisible. Sometimes loneliness draws a veil over us, causing us to forget that this isolation we feel is not unique to ourselves. So, if I can seek solace in one thing, it is that Murakami reminds me that I'm not alone when it comes to being lonely. 

While reading the book, I was half expecting something surreal and supernatural to occur. Surprisingly, this book is more grounded and was more focused on being philosophical, thus making it Murakami's most profound book to date. It bears themes on loss, self-identity and existential meaning, which were explored in his previous books like 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore. 

For the souls out there who have experienced loss, this book is your ticket to join Tsukuru in his journey to moving on. 

Noteworthy Quotes from the novel:
1. I really should have died then (...) Then this world, the one in the here and now, wouldn't exist. It was a captivating, bewitching thought. The present world wouldn't exist, and reality would no longer be real. As far as this world was concerned, he would simply no longer exist—just as this world would no longer exist for him.

2. I felt alone, but not especially lonely. I guess I just took that for granted.

3. Maybe you needed to talk with somebody. More than you ever imagined.

4. Tsukuru lived at death's door. He set up a tiny place to dwell, all by himself, on the rim of a dark abyss. A perilous spot, teetering on the edge, where, if he rolled over in his sleep, he might plunge into the depth of the void. Yet he wasn't afraid. All he thought about was how easy it would be to fall in.

5. Because I really am on the brink of death. I've survived, but barely—I've been clinging to this world like the discarded shell of an insect stuck to a branch, about to be blown off forever by a gust of wind. But that fact—that he looked like someone about to die—struck him again, forcefully.

6. Talent might be ephemeral.

7. It's just that, for me, what's worthwhile in life has become a burden, something I can't shoulder anymore.

8. People came to him, but in the end they always left. They came, seeking something, but either they couldn't find it, or were unhappy with what they found (or else they were disappointed or angry), and then they left.

9. Words don't come out when you're hurt that deeply.

10. Whatever the circumstances might have been, she didn't deserve to die like that. But at the same time I couldn't help but feel that the life had already been sucked out of her, even before she was physically murdered.

11. Still, being able to feel pain was good, he thought. It's when you can't even feel any pain anymore that you're in real trouble.

12. "It sounds kind of complicated."
"Maybe too complicated for me to explain in English." Olga laughed.
"Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language."Tsukuru nodded.

13. But something was definitely abnormal. It wasn't like I was confused, though. My mind was perfectly clear. Utterly still, with no static at all. A very strange condition, now that I think back on it.

14. And in that moment, he was finally able to accept it all. In the deepest recesses of his soul, understood. One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone.

15. We survived. You and I. And those who survive have a duty. Our duty is to do our best to keep on living. Even if our lives are not perfect.

16. That amazing time in our lives is gone, and will never return. All the beautiful possibilities we had then have been swallowed up in the flow of time.

17. All sorts of dark thoughts come to me. No matter how much I try to avoid them.

18. A formless, transparent sorrow. A sorrow he could touch, yet something that was also far away, out of reach. Pain struck him, as if gouging out his chest, and he could barely breathe.

19. And for him right now, losing sight of where he actually was felt good.

20. It honestly and delicately expressed, in a full, tangible way, what it meant to be alive.

21. His body was covered in sweat, his heart still beating out the dry cadence of time passing.

22. All the lost possibilities, all the time that was never to return.

23. “The parent birds are teaching their babies how to chirp,” Eri said. And she smiled. “Until I came here I never knew that. That birds have to be taught how to chirp.”

24. Why must the workings of people's lives be so convoluted?

25. How much of one's life was snatched away to simply vanish as a result of this (most likely) pointless movement from point A to point B?

26. The heart apparently doesn't stop that easily.

27. But there are countless things in the world for which affection is not enough. Life is long, and sometimes cruel. Sometimes victims are needed. Someone has to take on that role. And human bodies are fragile, easily damaged. Cut them, and they bleed.

28. Not everything was lost in the flow of time.

29. It was a wonderful thing to be able to truly want someone.


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