Haruki Murakami is considered one of the very best current writers in Japan.
His latest novel, "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage," was so looked forward to this year that people queued up at midnight to buy the book on its first day of publication. By the week's end, one million copies had been sold.
Quite a tribute of respect for a writer I would say, and the respect is deserved.
Murakami’s writing is deliberate and thought provoking. He has a wonderful sense of place and timing. One simply can’t read him in a hurry.
This book is about a character, Tsukuru Tazaki, whose name means “to make things.” His name is chosen deliberately by his father, who thinks his son will inherit his business as an adult. Tsukuru refuses to follow in his father's line of work. Instead, he follows his passion for railway stations, deciding to make new ones — thus, in a way, living up to the promise of his name.
However, there is an aspect to his name which causes him pain and influences his whole life. His name does not contain any words or meaning of color. This is vitally important to him because his childhood friends, two boys and two girls, all have names based on single colors.
Despite their overwhelmingly closeness and heir obvious affection for him, he feels the outsider among his friends. His discomfort finally becomes a complete estrangement when, on a return trip to his hometown from his job in Tokyo, he is shunned by the group without explanation.
Tsukuru is devastated enough to let that moment change his life completely. He does not ask for reasons. The uncertainty of knowing guides his behavior and his relationships for the next twenty years. He becomes a serious and solitary man.
But a woman helps change things. She insists that he return to his birth town and meet his former friends to find out precisely why he was cast out of their circle of friendship.
The story of his journey to his past is told by Murakami in what some might call lapidary prose. It is a quiet, evocative exploration of characters psychologically bound to each other in unexpected and often damaging ways.