Haruki Murakami seems to have gone off the boil recently. I was hoping that this book was going to be spell-binding and captivating, but instead found it rather skirting dangerously with vacuity. There are hints at how this book could have been developed into something deeper and more surreal along the lines of 1Q84 and while I had serious issues with that trilogy at least it had some good ideas in its pages. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage is, as the title suggests, rather absent of any great plotting or captivating events.
I long for something by the Murakami who wrote Kafka on the Shore or The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Instead Colorless reads like an author who is running dry of ideas. I was willing to accept a lack of fantasy and surrealism if the author was going to deliver something on a par with Norwegian Wood in terms of poignancy, characterisation and simple storytelling. Instead Colorless reads more like a character profile which would then precede a greater piece of writing.
I failed to see the relevance of the character Haida and the story he tells to Tsukuru. A friend who also reads Murakami avidly told me that it was a pivotal moment in the book, but it was lost on me. If any of the other characters had experienced a similar strange meeting, made a similar deal or found out what was in the bag, then I would see its relevance. But they don’t and Haida is a two-dimensional mechanism used to deliver a vaguely interesting but ultimately pointless story and then be gone. The reasons for his disappearance are never explained.
There are hints of the old Murakami among the dross. His ‘thing’ for ears is still there, the idea that you can emotionally and physically change after a trauma, and the descriptive passages about Tsukuru’s swimming routine are very good (if a little similar to What I talk About When I talk About Running). The scene where he meets his now married friend by a lake in Finland was also good, but was too little too late for me.
I long for talking cats, disappearing shadows, goblins, sheep with stars on their backs, magical wells, parallel worlds, not jazz or classical music and definitely not descriptions of food preparation. Perhaps in a parallel world Murakami has turned to writing pure sci-fi and is in fact my favourite writer, but unfortunately in reality he is dropping down my list of favourites as he keeps failing to deliver.