Tsukuru Tazaki's life was irreparably changed when his relationships with his high school best friends became severed during Tsukuru's college days, with no explanation. Now at 35, Tsukuru's girlfriend Sara suggests he goes to talk to these high school friends in person to mend the relationships. Tsukuru visits his friends in Nagoya and Finland one by one, and uncovers the real reason as to why their relations were broken off.
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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.
This is quite a claim to make. For me he is one of the top three authors in the world today so I have not written this lightly. With his wonderful slightly off-centre way of seeing the world, this novel actually has its foundation in a more real-world theme of friendship and loss. I normally listen to my audiobooks whilst driving and then read normal books at home, however when I returned home, three hours into the story, I took my iPod inside and continued listening through to the end just before midnight. Feeling totally emotionally engaged with the characters it is a wonderful story, wonderful reading and left me feeling drained. How I wish I still had to listen to it for the first time again.