[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0385352107″ cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41lJWvuUV2L._SL160_.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”112″]Page 2: Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki
Reality, dream, story: where does one end and the next begin? The lines are deliberately and repeatedly blurred, the reader invited to share the confusion.
Western readers will find the novel very accessible. Its spare, direct prose is entirely consistent with the Japanese aesthetic of simplicity and poses no barriers for other cultures. Even the cultural references are overwhelmingly Western, from Liszt to Jonah, from Brooks Brothers to Voltaire. The picture Murakami paints of Tsukuru’s life is virtually indistinguishable from that of a young man in any major urban center. This is global culture.
Those who like a tidy plot a la John Irving, with every strand woven in and tucked into place like a Celtic knot, will be disappointed. Questions are left unanswered, mysteries both large and small left unresolved, tucked into one of the Pending drawers of Tsukuru’s soul. I am not familiar enough with Murakami’s work to know if this is habitual with him, or whether it is highly deliberate, either in an attempt to mimic real life or to push the reader to ponder what can be known and what cannot, where reality ends and conjecture begins. Or more likely, both.
Religion plays virtually no role in this story. It is only mentioned in passing that Tsukuru’s family, and presumably he, are Buddhist. But there are spiritual themes nonetheless. Tsukuru struggles with profound feelings of sin and shame, of being too dirty to be worthy. And as he visits his former friends he finds to his surprise that their perception of him was very different from his own and one cannot but wonder how different his life would have been if he had only seen himself with the same eyes as others. For any Christian who has struggled with understanding their identity in Christ or been hobbled by an inability to see themselves as forgiven, worthy, loved, this is familiar ground.
As a final note, the cover design is sheer genius. I paid it little attention at first (I was reading on a mini Kobo, black and white only) but when I stopped to consider it more closely, I was struck by how the artist managed to convey so much of the story’s theme in a deceptively simple design. But I will leave the joy of that discovery to you.
Janet Ursel writes, reviews, and blogs at http://janetursel.com.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com