Well, the last blog post on books from my favourite author[1] was more than a year ago. I have read four since then, and I think this post is better late than never.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

I have to say my joy in reading this was almost killed by a non-intentional gaff of a spoiler by a friend of mine. I was incensed to say the least but the die was cast and I had to finish the book regardless. Tsk.

The protagonist Tazaki Tsukuru[2] is a chap who designs/builds railway stations in present day Tōkyō who grew up with four other friends in Nagoya in the 1990s. The five friends were very close but Tazaki left for university in Tōkyō, whilst the other four remained in their hometown. Tazaki’s relationship with his four friends ended suddenly following an incident which was not fully known to him until two decades later, and even then, he wasn’t sure if the unfortunate incident did occur in the first place. His decision to meet each of his old friends, after he was persuaded by his girlfriend, in search of the truth (and much more) formed the ‘pilgrimage’, as per the title. And why was he ‘colo(u)rless’? His friends were blue 「青」, white 「白」, black 「黒」 and red 「赤」- either as a surname or nickname. That’s the literal reason. As for the metaphorical, you need to read the book.

This was the first Murakami book that didn’t have much in the way of weirdness. Well, there was a bit, but it was unlike any of the other books of his that I have read. There was sex as per usual and another interesting thing with this story was due to it being in the present day, internet sites like Google and social media platforms like Facebook were included. And it was a pretty short read, even by my super slow standards. Despite the aforementioned gaff, wanting to know the reason behind the disintegration of the friendship and to see if there was any form of reconciliation following the pilgrimage (which went as far as Helsinki) was made. Interestingly, I was to fly to Tōkyō via Helsinki after finishing the book, and following my recent trip to Japan in the spring previously, Murakami’s description of Shinjuku station was very familiar.

The Strange Library

If Colorless was a quick read, this was way quicker. In fact, it felt like reading a Ladybird ‘Well-loved Tales’ book[3]. This 2005 illustrated children’s book only had an English translation in 2014.

The tale revolves around a young lad who enters a strange (well, what else would you find in Murakami’s la-la land) library only to be held in its depths by an old cannibalistic librarian. During his captivity, he was befriended by a young mute girl who spoke with her hands and a… sheep man. Yup, he’s back, but whether this is the same sheep man in A Wild Sheep’s Chase and Dance Dance Dance remains to be seen.

Enjoyable 15-minute read, this. But I have to say the illustrations present throughout the book take the cake. In parts almost Donwood[4]-like and reminiscent of old artwork in Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy.

South of the Border, West of the Sun

One for you jazz-lovers. Murakami previously owned a jazz club, which probably explained the fine detail in describing the protagonist’s (named Hajime) running of his jazz club in Aoyama. A tale of serendipity – Shimamoto, a childhood friend of Hajime’s, suddenly reappeared in his life, which led to events that would cause Hajime to make a decision on whether she is worth leaving his family for. Yup. More sex in this one, but don’t let that get in the way of a good yarn. I’d say this is a great love story, the kind that I like but still not up there with 1Q84. South of the Border in the title is a reference to a song by Nat King Cole, whilst west of the sun refers to hysteria siberiana.

“Again with the probablys.”
“A world full of probablys,” she said.

And like Colorless, there is no weirdness, much to my surprise once again. Or is there? Go check it out.

after the quake

Last but not least is this anthology of short stories, all related to the massive Kōbe earthquake that occurred in 1995. This was my second, after Elephant and following this, I’ve got Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman to read. Interestingly, the Japanese title of this anthology is an actual title of one of the six stories – All God’s Children Can DanceKami no kodomo-tachi wa mina odoru」 which was made into a film in 2008. Whilst that in itself (a man who is looking for his dad despite being told by his mom that he was err… son of God) was pretty good, my two favourites were the bittersweet Honey Pie (two bears making honey for money!) and the surreal Super-Frog Saves Tokyo (about a frog who… well, you know).


Jason Lew and Sonja Kinski from All God’s Children Can Dance.

Each enjoyable story was a fifteen-minute reader, so this was another fast book, by my standards.

[1]I think I don’t really read anyone else of late. Heh.
[2]Tsukuru 「作る」 is also a verb meaning to make/build/create in Japanese. An apt given name seeing what his hobbies are and what he does for a living.
[3]I learnt to read using this series of books when I was four.
[4]Stanley Donwood.