“The truth sometimes reminds me of a city buried in sand. […] As time passes, the sand piles up even thicker, and occasionally it’s blown away and what’s below is revealed.“
What better way to introduce Haruki Murakami than through the above passage from his book “Colourless Tsukuru Tazake”.
I won’t provide a full book review here as there are ample reviews online I am sure.
I became acquainted with Murakami on reading “1Q84”. In Japanese, the word for the number “nine” is pronounced “kyuu”, hence the clever play on phonetics to mimic the title “1984” by George Orwell. The parallel really stops there however, as “1Q84”, typical of Murakami’s style, is really of what I would term “psychological dystopian” genre and it has nothing really to do with Orwell’s plot.
A feature that shines through each of Murakami’s books is his broad knowledge of the various arts including literature (of course), art and music, as well as general knowledge and history in a broad sense.
Like a song that won’t leave your head all day, he will often take a theme and reference it repeatedly throughout the book with appropriate rhetorical effect.
In “Killing Commendatore” it is the opening scene to the opera “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in which the old dude suspects the young dude of ‘dishonouring’ his daughter and challenges the young dude to a duel – the old dude loses.
Don Giovanni opening scene
In “Colourless Tsukuru Tazake” it is Franz Liszt’s “Le mal du pays” which is the defining signature piece for one of the central characters, Shiro. Shiro, with the “long slender neck”, loves to play “Le mal du pays”, a rather forlorn, ethereal piece perfectly depicting the mood in its meaning of “homesickness”
Liszt – Le mal du pays
In “Colourless Tsukuru Tazake” there is a dark, pivotal event which results in (colourless) Tsukuru being unjustly and abruptly ostracised from his very close group of (colourful) high school friends without explanation. It is only some 16 years later that circumstances arise and with some encouragement [from Sara] he summons the courage to pursue answers to why he was mercilessly ostracised all those years ago.
As Tsukuru retraces events and reacquaints with his old friends, Murakami paints wonderful word pictures of each of these main characters. [Spoiler Alert: one is now deceased and another is living in Finland.] As usual, Murakami does a splendid job of describing the deepest thoughts and sense of their personal meaning in life of each of his characters.
To choose one word to describe Murakami’s work, it would be “metaphorical”, although he can overdo it a bit at times.
As the past is unravelled in “Colourless”, we read at one point:
“Maybe there’s not much point in doing this now, but I wanted to clear up a misunderstanding.” Tsukuru said …
“The truth sometimes reminds me of a city buried in sand.“ Aka said. “As time passes, the sand piles up even thicker, and occasionally it’s blown away and what’s below is revealed.“
[..] Tsukuru gazed at the face of his old friend …
“You can hide memories, but you can’t erase history.“ Tsukuru recalled Sara’s words and said them aloud.
You can hide [or confuse] memories, but you can’t erase history [the truth]. Indeed, that phrase could be the central theme for any discussion or debate about almost any aspect of ‘history’ as we ‘know’ it.
“What is history but a fable agreed upon?”
also often stated as …
“What is history but a series of lies agreed upon?”
Perhaps readers could uncover their own piles of sand and ponder some ‘agreed upon fables’ (rhetorically).