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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

By Haruki Murakami

About the Book:

A New York Times and Washington Post notable book, and one of the Financial Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Slate, Mother Jones, The Daily Beast, and BookPage's best books of the year

An instant #1 New York Times Bestseller, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the remarkable story of a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Here Haruki Murakami—one of the most revered voices in literature today—gives us a story of love, friend­ship, and heartbreak for the ages.


About Haruki Murakami:

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages. The most recent of his many international honors is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J. M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V. S. Naipaul.

Read an Excerpt

From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying. He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed—becoming an adult—meant nothing. Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn’t say why he hadn’t taken this final step. Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Perhaps he didn’t commit suicide then because he couldn’t conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death. But method was beside the point. If there had been a door within reach that led straight to death, he wouldn’t have hesitated to push it open, without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life. For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby.

 
I really should have died then, Tsukuru often told himself. Then this world, the one in the here and now, wouldn’t exist. It was a captivating, bewitching thought. The present world wouldn’t exist, and reality would no longer be real. As far as this world was concerned, he would simply no longer exist—just as this world would no longer exist for him.

At the same time, Tsukuru couldn’t fathom why he had reached this point, where he was teetering over the precipice. There was an actual event that had led him to this place—this he knew all too well—but why should death have such a hold over him, enveloping him in its embrace for nearly half a year? Envelop—the word expressed it precisely. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, Tsukuru had fallen into the bowels of death, one untold day after another, lost in a dark, stagnant void.

It was as if he were sleepwalking through life, as if he had already died but not yet noticed it. When the sun rose, so would Tsukuru—he’d brush his teeth, throw on whatever clothes were at hand, ride the train to college, and take notes in class. Like a person in a storm desperately grasping at a lamppost, he clung to this daily routine. He only spoke to people when necessary, and after school, he would return to his solitary apartment, sit on the floor, lean back against the wall, and ponder death and the failures of his life. Before him lay a huge, dark abyss that ran straight through to the earth’s core. All he could see was a thick cloud of nothingness swirling around him; all he could hear was a profound silence squeezing his eardrums.

When he wasn’t thinking about death, his mind was blank. It wasn’t hard to keep from thinking. He didn’t read any newspapers, didn’t listen to music, and had no sexual desire to speak of. Events occurring in the outside world were, to him, inconsequential. When he grew tired of his room, he wandered aimlessly around the neighborhood or went to the station, where he sat on a bench and watched the trains arriving and departing, over and over again.

He took a shower every morning, shampooed his hair well, and did the laundry twice a week. Cleanliness was another one of his pillars: laundry, bathing, and teeth brushing. He barely noticed what he ate. He had lunch at the college cafeteria, but other than that, he hardly consumed a decent meal. When he felt hungry he stopped by the local supermarket and bought an apple or some vegetables. Sometimes he ate plain bread, washing it down with milk straight from the carton.  When it was time to sleep, he’d gulp down a glass of whiskey as if it were a dose of medicine. Luckily he wasn’t much of a drinker, and a small dose of alcohol was all it took to send him off to sleep. He never dreamed. But even if he had dreamed, even if dreamlike images arose from the edges of his mind, they would have found nowhere to perch on the slippery slopes of his consciousness, instead quickly sliding off, down into the void.
 
 
 
The reason why death had such a hold on Tsukuru Tazaki was clear. One day his four closest friends, the friends he’d known for a long time, announced that they did not want to see him, or talk with him, ever again. It was a sudden, decisive declaration, with no room for compromise. They gave no explanation, not a word, for this harsh pronouncement. And Tsukuru didn’t dare ask.

He’d been friends with the four of them since high school, though when they cut him off, Tsukuru had already left his hometown and was attending college in Tokyo. So being banished didn’t have any immediate negative effects on his daily routine—it wasn’t like there would be awkward moments when he’d run into them on the street. But that was just quibbling. The pain he felt was, if anything, more intense, and weighed down on him even more greatly because of the physical distance. Alienation and loneliness became a cable that stretched hundreds of miles long, pulled to the breaking point by a gigantic winch. And through that taut line, day and night, he received indecipherable messages. Like a gale blowing between trees, those messages varied in strength as they reached him in fragments, stinging his ears.
 
 
 
The five of them had been classmates at a public high school in the suburbs of Nagoya. Three boys, and two girls. During summer vacation of their freshman year, they all did some volunteer work together and became friends. Even after freshman year, when they were in different classes, they remained a close-knit group. The volunteer work that had brought them together had been part of a social studies summer assignment, but even after it ended, they chose to volunteer as a group.

Besides the volunteer work, they went hiking together on holidays, played tennis, swam at the Chita Peninsula, or got together at one of their houses to study for tests. Or else—and this was what they did most often—they just hung out someplace, and talked for hours.  It wasn’t like they showed up with a topic in mind—they just never ran out of things to talk about.

Pure chance had brought them together. There were several volunteer opportunities they could have chosen from, but the one they all chose, independently, was an after-school tutoring program for elementary school kids (most of whom were children who refused to go to school). The program was run by a Catholic church, and of the thirty-five students in their high school class, the five of them were the only ones who selected it. To start, they participated in a three-day summer camp outside Nagoya, and got to be good friends with the children.

Whenever they took a break, the five of them gathered to talk. They got to know each other better, sharing their ideas and opening up about their dreams, as well as their problems. And when the summer camp was over, each one of them felt they were in the right place, where they needed to be, with the perfect companions. A unique sense of harmony developed between them—each one needed the other four and, in turn, shared the sense that they too were needed. The whole convergence was like a lucky but entirely accidental chemical fusion, something that could only happen once. You might gather the same materials and make identical preparations, but you would never be able to duplicate the result.

After the initial volunteer period, they spent about two weekends a month at the after-school program, teaching the kids, reading to them, playing with them. They mowed the lawn, painted the building, and repaired playground equipment. They continued this work for the next two years, until they graduated from high school.

The only source of tension among them was the uneven number—the fact that their group was comprised of three boys and two girls. If two of the boys and two of the girls became couples, the remaining boy would be left out. That possibility must have always been hanging over their heads like a small, thick, lenticular cloud. But it never happened, nor did it even seem a likely possibility.
 
 
 
Perhaps coincidentally, all five of them were from suburban, upper-middle-class families. Their parents were baby boomers; their fathers were all professionals. Their parents spared no expense when it came to their children’s education. On the surface, at least, their families were peaceful, and stable. None of their parents got divorced, and most of them had stay-at-home mothers. Their high school emphasized academics, and their grades were uniformly good. Overall there were far more similarities than differences in their everyday environments.

And aside from Tsukuru Tazaki, they had another small, coincidental point in common: their last names all contained a color. The two boys’ last names were Akamatsu—which means  “red pine”—and Oumi—“blue sea”; the girls’ family names were Shirane—“white root”—and Kurono—“black field.” Tazaki was the only last name that did not have a color in its meaning. From the very beginning this fact made him feel a little bit left out. Of course, whether or not you had a color as part of your name had nothing to do with your personality. Tsukuru understood this. But still, it disappointed him, and he surprised himself by feeling hurt. Soon, the other four friends began to use nicknames: the boys were called Aka (red) and Ao (blue); and the girls were Shiro (white) and Kuro (black). But he just remained Tsukuru. How great it would be, he often thought, if I had a color in my name too. Then everything would be perfect.

Aka was the one with the best grades. He never seemed to study hard, yet was at the top of his class in every subject. He never bragged about his grades, however, and preferred to cautiously stay in the background, almost as if he were embarrassed to be so smart. But as often is the case with short people—he never grew past five foot three—once he made up his mind about something, no matter how trivial it might be, he never backed down. And he was bothered by illogical rules and by teachers who couldn’t meet his exacting standards. He hated to lose; whenever he lost a tennis match, it put him in a bad mood. He didn’t act out, or pout—instead, he just became unusually quiet. The other four friends found his short temper amusing and often teased him about it. Eventually Aka would always break down and laugh along with them. His father was a professor of economics at Nagoya University.

Ao was impressively built, with wide shoulders and a barrel chest, as well as a broad forehead, a generous mouth, and an imposing nose. He was a forward on the rugby team, and in his senior year he was elected team captain. He really hustled on the field and was constantly getting cuts and bruises. He wasn’t good at buckling down and studying, but he was a cheerful person and enormously popular among his classmates. He always looked people straight in the eye, spoke in a clear, strong voice, and had an amazing appetite, seeming to enjoy everything set down in front of him. He also had a quick recall of people’s names and faces, and seldom said anything bad about anyone else. He was a good listener and a born leader. Tsukuru could never forget the way he’d gather his team around him before a match to give them a pep talk.

“Listen up!” Ao would bellow. “We’re going to win. The only question is how and by how much. Losing is not an option for us. You hear me? Losing is not an option!”

“Not an option!” the team would shout, before rushing out onto the field.

Not that their high school rugby team was all that good. Ao was clever and extremely athletic, but the team itself was mediocre. When they went up against teams from private schools, where players had been recruited from all over the country on athletic scholarships, Ao’s team usually lost. “What’s important,” he’d tell his friends, “is the will to win. In the real world we can’t always win. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

“And sometimes you get rained out,” Kuro remarked, with typical sarcasm.

Ao shook his head sadly. “You’re confusing rugby with baseball or tennis. Rugby’s never postponed on account of rain.”

“You play even when it’s raining?” Shiro asked, surprised. Shiro knew next to nothing about  sports, and had zero interest in them.

“That’s right,” Aka said seriously. “Rugby matches are never canceled. No matter how hard it rains. That’s why every year you get a lot of players who drown during matches.”

“My God, that’s awful!” Shiro said.

“Don’t be silly. He’s joking,” Kuro said, in a slightly disgusted tone.

“If you don’t mind,” Ao went on, “my point is that if you’re an athlete you have to learn how to be a good loser.”

“You certainly get a lot of practice with that every day,” Kuro said.

Shiro was tall and slim, with a model’s body and the graceful features of a traditional Japanese doll. Her long hair was a silky, lustrous black. Most people who passed her on the street would turn around for a second look, but she seemed to find her beauty embarrassing. She was a serious person, who above all else disliked drawing attention to herself. She was also a wonderful, skilled pianist, though she would never play for someone she didn’t know. She seemed happiest while teaching piano to children in an after-school program. During these lessons, Shiro looked completely relaxed, more relaxed than Tsukuru saw her at any other  time. Several of the children, Shiro said, might not be good at regular schoolwork, but they had a natural talent for music and it would be a shame to not develop it. The school only had an old upright piano, almost an antique, so the five of them started a fund-raising drive to buy a new one. They worked part-time during summer vacation, and persuaded a company that made musical instruments to help them out. In the spring of their senior year, their hard work finally paid off, resulting in the purchase of a grand piano for the school. Their campaign caught people’s attention and was even featured in a newspaper.

Shiro was usually quiet, but she loved animals so much that when a conversation turned to dogs and cats, her face lit up and the words would cascade out from her. Her dream was to become a veterinarian, though Tsukuru couldn’t picture her with a scalpel, slicing open the belly of a Labrador retriever, or sticking her hand up the anus of a horse. If she went to vet school, that’s exactly the kind of training she’d have to do. Her father ran an ob-gyn clinic in Nagoya.

Kuro wasn’t beautiful, but she was eager and charming and always curious. She was large-boned and full-bodied, and already had a well-developed bust by the time she was sixteen. She was independent and tough, with a mind as quick as her tongue. She did well in humanities subjects, but was hopeless at math and physics. Her father ran an accounting firm in Nagoya, but there was no way she would ever be able to help out. Tsukuru often helped her with her math homework. She could be sarcastic but had a unique, refreshing sense of humor, and he found talking with her fun and stimulating. She was a great reader, too, and always had a book under her arm.

Shiro and Kuro had been in the same class in junior high and knew each other well, even before the five of them became friends. To see them together was a wonderful sight: a unique and captivating combination of a beautiful, shy artist and a clever, sarcastic comedian.

Tsukuru Tazaki was the only one in the group without anything special about him. His grades were slightly above average. He wasn’t especially interested in academics, though he did pay close attention during class and always made sure to do the minimum amount of practice  and review needed to get by. From the time he was little, that was his habit, no different from washing your hands before you eat and brushing your teeth after a meal. So although his grades were never stellar, he always passed his classes with ease. As long as he kept his grades up, his parents were never inclined to pester him to attend cram school or study with a tutor.

He didn’t mind sports but never was interested enough to join a team. He’d play the occasional game of tennis  with his family or friends,  and go skiing or swimming every once in a while. That was about it. He was pretty good-looking, and sometimes people even told him so, but what they really meant was that he had no particular defects to speak of. Sometimes, when he looked at his face in the mirror, he detected an incurable boredom. He had no deep interest in the arts, no hobby or special skill. He was, if anything, a bit taciturn; he blushed  easily, wasn’t especially outgoing, and could never relax around people he’d just met.

If pressed to identify something special about him, one might notice that his family was the most affluent of the five friends, or that an aunt on his mother’s side was an actress—not a star by any means,  but still fairly well known. But when it came to Tsukuru himself, there was not one single quality he possessed that was worth bragging about or showing off to others. At least that was how he viewed himself. Everything about him was middling, pallid, lacking in color.

The only real interest he had was train stations. He wasn’t sure why, but for as long as he could remember, he had loved to observe train stations—they had always appealed to him. Huge bullet-train stations; tiny, one-track stations out in the countryside; rudimentary freight-collection stations—it didn’t matter what kind, because as long as it was a railway station, he loved it. Everything about stations moved him deeply.

Like most little boys he enjoyed assembling model trains, but what really fascinated him weren’t the elaborate locomotives or cars, the intricately intersecting rail tracks, or the cleverly designed dioramas. No, it was the models of ordinary stations set down among the other parts, like an afterthought. He loved to watch as the trains passed by the station, or slowed down as they pulled up to the platform. He could picture the passengers coming and going, the announcements on the speaker system, the ringing of the signal as a train was about to depart, the station employees  briskly going about their duties. What was real and what was imaginary mingled in his mind, and he’d tremble sometimes with the excitement of it all. But he could never adequately explain to people why he was so attracted to the stations. Even if he could, he knew they would think he was one weird kid. And sometimes Tsukuru himself wondered if something wasn’t exactly right with him.

Though he lacked a striking personality, or any qualities that made him stand out, and despite always aiming for what was average, the middle of the road, there was (or seemed to be) something about him that wasn’t exactly normal, something that set him apart. And this contradiction continued to perplex and confuse him, from his boyhood all the way to the present, when he was thirty-six years old. Sometimes the confusion was momentary and insubstantial, at other times deep and profound.
 
 
 
Sometimes Tsukuru couldn’t understand why he was included in their group of five. Did the others  really need him? Wouldn’t they be able to relax and have a better time if he weren’t there?  Maybe they just hadn’t realized it yet, and it was only a matter of time before they did? The more he pondered this dilemma, the less he understood. Trying to sort out his value to the group was like trying to weigh something that had no unit value. The needle on the scale wouldn’t settle on a number.

But none of these concerns  seemed to bother the other four. Tsukuru could see that they genuinely loved it when all five of them got together as a group. Like an equilateral pentagon, where all sides are the same length, their group’s formation had to be composed of five people exactly—any more or any less wouldn’t do. They believed that this was true. 

And naturally Tsukuru was happy, and proud, to be included as one indispensable side of the pentagon. He loved his four friends, loved the sense of belonging he felt when he was with them. Like a young tree absorbing nutrition from the soil, Tsukuru got the sustenance he needed as an adolescent from this group, using it as necessary food to grow, storing what was left as an emergency heat source inside him. Still, he had a constant, nagging fear that someday he would fall away from this intimate community, or be forced out and left on his own. Anxiety raised its head, like a jagged, ominous rock exposed by the receding  tide, the fear that he would be separated from the group and end up entirely alone.


From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews

“Mesmerizing, immersive, hallucinogenic.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Readers wait for [Murakami’s] work the way past generations lined up at record stores for new albums by the Beatles or Bob Dylan. . . . Reveals another side of Murakami, one not so easy to pin down. . . A book for both the new and experienced reader.” —Patti Smith, The New York Times Book Review 

“Hypnotic.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Brilliant.” —The Miami Herald
 
“A masterpiece.” —Elle
 
“Wistful, mysterious, winsome, disturbing, seductive.” —The Atlantic
 
Remarkable.” — The Washington Post
 
 “Intoxicating. . . . Full of beauty, strangeness, and color.” —NPR

“[Murakami] is ever alert to minds and hearts, to what it is, precisely, that they feel and see, and to humanity’s abiding and indomitable spirit. . . . A deeply affecting novel, not only for the dark nooks and crannies it explores, but for the magic that seeps into its characters’ subconsciouses, for the lengths to which they will go to protect or damage one another, for the brilliant characterizations it delivers along the way.” —The Washington Post
 
“More than just a story but rather a meditation. . . . There is a rawness, a vulnerability, to these characters.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“Tsukuru’s pilgrimage will never end, because he is moving constantly away from his destination, which is his old self. This is a narrow poignancy, but a powerful one, and Murakami is its master. Perhaps that's why he has come to speak not just for his thwarted nation, but for so many of us who love art—since it's only there, alas, in novels such as this one, that we're allowed to live twice.” —Chicago Tribune
 
“Bold and colorful threads of fiction blur smoothly together to form the muted white of an almost ordinary realism. Like J.M. Coetzee, Murakami smoothly interlaces allegorical meanings with everyday particulars of contemporary social reality. . . . Tsukuru’s situation will resonate with anyone who feels adrift in this age of Google and Facebook.” —San Francisco Chronicle
 
Colorless Tsukuru spins a weave of . . . vivid images around a great mystery. . . . The story flows along smoothly, wrapping around details like objects in a stream.” —The Boston Globe
 
 “The premise is simple enough, but in the works of Murakami, nothing is simple. . . . A perfect introduction to Murakami’s world, where questions of guilt and motivation abound, and the future is an open question.” —The Miami Herald
 
“Beautiful, rich with moving images and lush yet exquisitely controlled language. . . . Fans of elegant, intelligent fiction will welcome this book.” —Tampa Bay Times
 
“Moving. . . . One of Murakami’s most endearing and enduring traits as a writer is an almost reportorial attention to detail, the combined effect of which gives you a complete picture while still feeling a little ethereal.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 
“Shockingly seductive. . . . Murakami has a knack for swift, seamless storytelling. . . . Don’t be surprised if you devour Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage in the course of a night or two. . . . Charming and unexpected.” —Richmond Times-Dispatch
 
“Satisfying. . . . Murakami can find mystery in the mundane and conjure it in sparse, Raymond Carveresque prose.” —Financial Times
 
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki alights in some mysterious places but doesn’t settle there. . . . [It] is replete with emotionally frank, philosophical discussions. . . . Reflective.” —The Dallas Morning News
 
“A piercing and surprisingly compact story about friendship and loneliness. . . . Murakami skillfully explores the depths of Tsukuru’s isolation and pain.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 
“Truly captivating . . . Calling Murakami a ‘universally respected author’ or even a ‘paragon of literature’ is no longer apt. The man is a cultural force unto himself. . . . [In Colorless Tsukuru] the staples of his work . . . all come together to form a beautiful whole.” —A.V. Club
 
“Spare and contained. . . . Quiet, with disturbing depths.” —The Columbus Dispatch
 
“A testament to the mystery, magic, and mastery of this much-revered Japanese writer’s imaginative powers. Murakami’s moxie is characterized by a brilliant detective-story-like blend of intuition, hard-nosed logic, impeccable pacing, and poetic revelations.” —Elle

Reader's Guide

About This Guide
The introduction, author biography, discussion questions, and suggested reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, the eagerly anticipated new novel by Haruki Murakami.
About This Book
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the long-awaited new novel—a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan—from the award-winning, internationally best-selling author Haruki Murakami. 

Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.
Question & Answer
1. What is the significance of the name of the novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage? Why is Tsukuru branded “colorless”? Would you say that this an accurate description of him? Is this how Tsukuru sees himself or is it how he is seen by others? What kind of pilgrimage does Tsukuru embark upon and how does he change as a result of this pilgrimage? What causes these changes?

2. Why does Tsukuru wait so many years before attempting to find out why he was banished from the group? How does he handle the deep depression he feels as a result of this rejection and how is he changed by this period of suffering? Is Tsukuru the only character who suffers in this way? If not, who else suffers at what is the cause? Do you believe that their distress could have been avoided? If so, how?

3. Do you consider Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki a realistic work of fiction? Why or why not? What fantastical or surreal elements does Murakami employ in the novel and what purpose do they serve? What do these elements reveal that strictly realistic elements might not? Kuro says, “I do think that sometimes a certain kind of dream can be even stronger than reality” (310). In considering genre, do you believe that this is true?

4. Tsukuru reveals that his father chose his name, which means “to make things.” Is this an apt name for Tsukuru? Why or why not? How does Tsukuru’s understanding of his own name affect the way that he sees himself? Where else in the story does the author address making things? Are they portrayed as positive or useful activities?

5. Why is Tsukuru’s friendship with Haida so important? What is the outcome of this relationship? How does the relationship ultimately affect Tsukuru’s perception of himself? Does it alter Tsukuru’s response to the rejection he was subjected to years earlier in any way?

6. Why does Haida share with Tsukuru the story about his father and the strange piano player who speaks of death? What might this teach us about the purpose of storytelling? How does Tsukuru react to this story? Is he persuaded by Haida’s tale? What does the story teach us about belief and the power of persuasion?

7. Sara says that we live in an age where “we’re surrounded by an enormous amount of information about other people. If you feel like it, you can easily gather than information about them. Having said that, we still hardly know anything about people” (148). Do the characters in the story know each other very well? Do you believe that technology in today’s world has helped or hindered us in knowing each other better?

8. When Tsukuru finally sees three of his friends again, how have each of them changed? How do they react to seeing one another after all this time? Are their reactions strange and unexpected or predictable? What unexpected changes have taken place over the years, and why are they surprising to Tsukuru? Has anything remained consistent?

9. When Tsukuru visits the pizzeria in Finland, how does he react after realizing he is the only one there who is alone? How is this different from his usual response to isolation throughout the story? Discuss what this might indicate about the role that setting plays in determining Tsukuru’s emotional state.

10. Does Tsukuru’s self-image and understanding of his role within the group align with how they saw Tsukuru and perceived his role in their group? If not, what causes differences in their perceptions? Do Tsukuru’s thoughts about his rejection from the group align with his friends’ understanding of why he was banished? How did Tsukuru’s banishment affect the other members of the group?

11. Why do Tsukuru and Kuro say that they may be partly responsible for Shiro’s murder? Do you believe that the group did the right thing by protecting Shiro? Why or why not?

12. The Franz Liszt song “Le mal du pays” is a recurring motif in the novel. Shiro plays the song on the piano; Haida leaves a recording of it behind; Tsukuru listens to it again and again; Kuro also has a recording. Why might the author have chosen to include this song in particular in the story? What effect does its repetition have on the reader—and the characters in the novel?

13. Sara tells Tsukuru: “You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them” (44). What does she mean by this? Do you agree with her statement?

14. Kuro says that she believes an evil spirit had inhabited Shiro, and as Tsukuru is leaving her home, Kuro tells him not to let the bad elves get him. Elsewhere in the story, the piano player asks Haida’s father whether he believes in a devil. Does the novel seem to indicate whether there is such a thing as evil—existing apart from mankind, or is darkness characterized as an innate part of man’s psyche?

15. While visiting Kuro, Tsukuru comes to the realization “One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds” (322). This, he says, “is what lies at the root of true harmony.” What does he mean by this? Do you agree with his statement?

16. Why does Tsukuru seem to be so interested in railroad stations? How does his interest in these stations affect his relationship with his high school friends? Later in his life, how does this interest affect his understanding of friendship and relationships? The author revisits Tsukuru’s interest in railroad stations at the end of the book and refers to the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways in 1995 great disaster of 3/11 in Japan. Why do you think that Murakami makes mention of this incident? Does this reference change your interpretation of the story?

17. Is Tsukuru’s decision with respect to Sara at the end of the story indicative of some kind of personal progress? What is significant about his gesture? How has Tsukuru changed by the story’s end? Do you believe that the final scene provides sufficient resolution of the issues raised at the start of the story? Does it matter that readers are not ultimately privy to Sara’s response to Tsukuru’s gesture?

18. Tsukuru wishes that he had told Kuro, “Not everything was lost in the flow of time” (385). What does he believe was preserved although time has gone by? What did the members of the group ultimately gain through their friendship despite their split?

19. How does Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki compare to Haruki Murakami’s earlier novels? What themes do the works share? What elements of Murakami’s latest novel are different or unexpected?

About This Author
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages. The most recent of his many international honors is the Jerusalem Prize, whose previous recipients include J. M. Coetzee, Milan Kundera, and V. S. Naipaul. Translated by Philip Gabriel.

Other books by Haruki Murakami

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