Haruki Murakami

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Summary

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013), a literary novel by Haruki Murakami, follows a depressed man as he deals with the ghosts of his past and events that traumatized him a long time ago. A number-one New York Times bestseller, it received various award nominations, including the International Dublin Literary Award and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Murakami is a Japanese writer and translator. He is best known for writing profoundly complex but accessible novels. Before writing books, Murakami studied drama at Waseda University and opened a jazz bar in Tokyo with his wife.

Thirty-six-year-old Tsukuru Tazaki lives in Tokyo. His major passion in life is trains, and he designs train stations for a Tokyo-based rail company. Although Tsukuru enjoys his job, he feels something is missing in his life. Single and lonely, he wonders if he will ever feel close to someone.

Tsukuru finds a girlfriend, Sara, who works at a local travel agency. Though Sara isn’t a perfect match for him, he is less lonely. One day, they talk about their other friends. Tsukuru explains that he doesn’t have any friends. For the first time, he talks about what happened to him in high school.

Once, Tsukuru had four friends—Ao, Aka, Shiro, and Kuro. Their names stand for the colors blue, red, white, and black. Tsukuru always felt like the odd one out because his name didn’t have a color in it. He thought everyone else lived in a bright, colorful world while he was doomed to walk in a blank, grey void forever.

The friendships fell apart when Tsukuru applied to college in Tokyo. His other friends didn’t go to school. They took jobs right after high school and still saw each other all the time whereas Tsukuru moved away for college. Whenever he came home to visit family, he always saw his friends. One day, however, they stopped talking to him.

Sara asks Tsukuru what happened. Tsukuru says he doesn’t know. He asked to hang out with them, but they wouldn’t see him. They said he didn’t belong with the group anymore, they had nothing in common. They told Tsukuru to never contact them again. Tsukuru admits this rejection almost crushed him and that he contemplated suicide.

Finally, Tsukuru recovered from his heartbreak. He stopped thinking about his old friends and focused on college. He made a new friend, Haida, who loved classical music. They listened to music together and talked about spiritual, philosophical things. Just when Tsukuru believed he had a best friend again, Haida disappeared.

Haida didn’t just disappear from Tsukuru’s life. He dropped out of school and no one ever saw him again. All Tsukuru has left to remember him by is a book collection. Tsukuru has no idea where Haida went, although he suspects he either killed himself or went to a spiritual sanctuary. After what happened with his high school friends, Tsukuru decided not to think about Haida again and simply move on with his life.

Sara wants to help Tsukuru recover from his old wounds. She thinks he should track down his high school friends to ask them what happened. It isn’t okay that they just cut Tsukuru from their lives without explanation. Although Tsukuru doesn’t want to confront these old friends, he knows that Sara is right, and he decides to find them.

Tsukuru opens a social media account and finds Ao. Ao is an ex-jock who now runs a Lexus dealership. He’s surprised to hear from Tsukuru but he agrees to meet him in their old hometown, Nagoya. Ao tells Tsukuru that Shiro accused him of raping her. The others didn’t know what to do so they simply pushed Tsukuru away.

Horrified, Tsukuru wants to see Shiro. Ao tells him that she is dead. No one knows what happened. Tsukuru asks Ao to help him find Aka. Aka agrees to meet Tsukuru. He admits that he didn’t believe Shiro, but he caved to peer pressure. It was easy because they hardly saw Tsukuru after high school, anyway. Although Tsukuru is disappointed in Aka, he understands that it is sometimes easier to let things go than demand the truth.

Kuro, the last group member, now lives in Finland. Tsukuru decides to surprise her with a visit. He flies to Finland without any idea of how to track Kuro down. Luckily, Sara’s Finnish friend, Olga, agrees to meet Tsukuru to help him find Kuro. They eventually locate her in a remote, rural town where she is on holiday with her family. Unsurprisingly, she is not happy to have Tsukuru drop by unannounced like this.

Tsukuru asks Kuro what happened. Kuro knew Tsukuru didn’t rape Shiro. Shiro loved Tsukuru but she knew he didn’t love her back. She fabricated the rape story so that he would disappear. Kuro knows that what happened isn’t fair, but she doesn’t see the point in apologizing now. Tsukuru leaves Finland, deciding that it is time to move on with his life and leave his old identity behind.