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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgramage by Haruki Murakami

I love this author, who has the sparse and beautiful art of story telling embedded in his bones.  He is my odds on favorite to win the Nobel Prize in the not too distant future.  His work is consistent, mesmerizing and prolific.  The great news about this book is that is short, wonderful and not too densely written.  So if you have yet to discover this author, start here.  The book is far more concisely written than the rambling title would suggest.

Henry David Thoreau said that 'Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.' Tsukuru is an engineer who narrowly escapes this fate.  He led a charmed existence in high school, with a group of four fellow students, two men and two women, who fulfilled almost all the needs that a high school student could desire.  There was a sexual tension that kept them from forming boy-girl relationships, but other than sexual intimacy, they shared everything with each other.  Tsukuru was the only one of the group who left their hometown to go to college, and during that time the group ostracized him for reasons that escaped him.  The break caused him suicidal grief, but eventually he found the will to live and continued his life as planned in Tokyo.

Tsukuru gets involved with a woman who he thinks might be 'the one', but she holds him at arm's length, saying there is something that keeps him from throwing himself completely into a relationship, and she thinks it is this now ancient shunning that he endured.  She insists that he go to each of the members of his former group and unravel what went so wrong.  While she might be meddling into his life in the way of a psychotherapist, she does help him find each of his former gang and one by one he manages to piece together what happens.  It is cathartic for him and in the end he is able to feel and express love for what he hopes will be his life partner.  A compact and splendid tale.

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