With street photography lessons already done and the stock of movies almost run out, I had to look for alternative things to be busy with. I still had two months to kill then before grad school classes opened again in August. Aside from small art projects, reading became a go-to habit. Throughout the third quarter of the year, I finished four books, two are written by acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, one an American classic obsessed with warring families and gangster crime in the 1950s, and the last one is by a British writer writing a simple story about a mentally challenged child.
So where do we begin? Aha.
Haruki Murakami | 1Q84
I tried Norwegian Wood before, but after the first fifteen pages or so, I gave up. The novel was too lonely for me at that moment; I decided to save it to a later date. Either I’m affected by Norwegian Wood’s melancholic narrative or I don’t have enough time to read, weren’t really good excuses. So when the opportunity to try out Haruki Murakami’s three-volumed science fiction novel 1Q84 came, I happily took the book. The nice reading experience and the sneak preview from New York Times encouraged me to also read through his recent offering, The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.
So how did the books fare? In general, I like both novels but I felt that Colorless Tsukuru was more relatable and heartwarming than 1Q84’s science fiction/ fantasy premise.
But let’s start with 1Q84. A friend kept recommending the book to me, so I countered why should I, considering that the volume is too thick for an easy read. She told me to just read it and then talk after. Because I am gullible most of the time, I began scan-reading the first few parts. What turned out to be skimming went to reading in full swing. I began Monday and finished by Sunday afternoon, then I slept before telling my friend I am done with the novel.
Murakami’s 1Q84, I felt, is a beautiful love story meshed in an elaborate plot filled with fantasy and science fiction. Murakami was able to conjure vivid images with the beautiful language and story telling he used— something I always look forward when reading fiction. I was also able to create different voices for each of the characters he brought to life. Weirdo me. Anyway, my favourite character was Aomame because of her irony— her stealth and agile strength masks the many vulnerabilities of her secret life. At one point, I thought I wanted to try out her double life. Tsarot.
Overall, I liked it. My friend did not. Or well she liked it but was quite disappointed especially with the way the story ended. Hahaha. Sorry, I can’t tell you. Read through then let’s compare.
Haruki Murakami | The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
As said, Colorless Tsukuru was more heartwarming and relatable than 1Q84. It may be classified as bildungsroman or those novels that tackle various aspects of human life and man’s subsequent coming of age. The story introduces us to Tsukuru Tazaki, a train engineer in his early 30s, trying to make sense of everything in his life. He finds living mundane, going through rounds of eating, working a 9-to-5 job, drinking a few bottles of beer, sleeping and then waking up to do the same things.
Like any other human being, Tsukuru has life issues. And like many other people, he dodges these issues; on several occasions by taking his life. His girlfriend Sara encouraged him to resolve these issues by confronting the past and the people who caused him such grief. Eventually, Sara helps him locate his four friends who abandoned him all of a sudden, for no apparent reason. The journey Tsukuru takes while finding his friends in nearby Nagoya to Finland which is at the other end of the globe brought him that much needed vigour and new-found hope.
Murakami’s new work sounds all too familiar for readers especially those who like stories with coming-of-age and maturity themes. But what makes this special was how Tsukuru’s like unfolded before us. The realisations he had were like unspoken thoughts for us. I guess what I’m saying is that at one point or another in our lives, we were Tsukuru. We tried “to make” things or “build” dreams, similar to what his name suggests, but more often than not they crumble before our very eyes or they happen but not to our usual liking. Or maybe I’m analysing too much from the story.
Anyway, the point is that Murakami wrote a masterpiece that touched my heart and the many other feelings that come with it. By the time we leaf through the last few pages of the book, we ask what had happened to Tsukuru? Murakami chose to write an ending without a clear resolution. Much like real life.
The writer sits at his desk and makes us a story. A story not knowing where it is going, not knowing itself to be magic. Closure is an illusion, the winking of the eye of a storm. Nothing is completely resolved in life, nothing is perfect. The important thing is to keep living because only by living can you see what happens next.
(Patti Smith in New York Times Sunday Book Review "Deep Chords: Haruki Murakami's 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage'", 5 August 2014)
Two more books are reviewed in the coming post. :)
Meanwhile, some nice fan art on 1Q84 which I found in the vast cyberverse. Hehehe :D
Labels: 2014, book review, fiction, good reads, Haruki Murakami, japanese novels