COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE by Haruki Murakami (Bond Street), 386 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNN
Haruki Murakami's 13th novel has about as much energy as its alienated protagonist, which is to say, not much.
At a high school in Nagoya, 250 kilometres outside of Tokyo, Tsukuru was a member of a tight-knit group - three boys and two girls - that was everything that mattered to him at the time.
But when he leaves to study engineering in the capital, he's excommunicated from the quintet for reasons his former friends refuse to reveal. Completely bereft, he considers suicide but settles for sleepwalking through life. While at university, a friendship with a man he likes to swim with looks like it might wake him up, but that storyline dies.
By 36, though he appears relatively successful, an eligible bachelor working as a railway station designer, he's stuck, completely unable to see his own worth. It's not that he has low self-esteem - he has no esteem at all.
When a new girlfriend who senses the hole inside him convinces him to find out why his friends cut him off, the story takes off.
That's not until halfway through the book. There are some exquisite sequences ruminating on the power of music and the precision required to design the train stations Tsukuru's so passionate about. And I love the final statement about the elusiveness of closure.
But everything kind of drifts along. Even the key revelation about why Tsukuru was rejected falls strangely flat. Some blame translator Philip Gabriel, but he's worked with Murakami many times before, so I don't think he's the problem.
Fans will recognize the dream-like style. Me? I find it beautiful in parts but listless.