I managed to tuck two more books into the end of the year’s reading. The year started with one of my favorites — A Tale for the Time Being — and ends with another favorite as well, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
Since there are so many things Japanese in my life, people often expect me to have read all of Haruki Murakami’s books. The truth is, I have had an ambivalence for Murakami. I think the last book I read by him, prior to Colorless, was the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I loved that book enough to keep it on my shelves, but something about the way Murakami’s stories can dip into the surreal prevented me from picking up another. I think I’ve expressed in blogs that I am often mystified by dream sequences in books, and Murakami seems to relish writing about weird dreams.
I am glad that the prodding of my friends in France prompted me to pick up this newer release. I really enjoyed Colorless Tsukuru, and was struck anew by Murakami’s amazing inventiveness. He doesn’t seem to have any limits on both his imagination or those of his characters. There is a universal quality to his writing and observations of the human heart and experiences, and yet, an oddness in his characters motivations and responses that drive the story forward.
One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony.
And this beautiful, if slightly mysterious, observation as well:
The human heart is like a night bird. Silently waiting for something, and when the time comes, it flies straight toward it.
Colorless Tsukuru is my book that ends the year with a !, just as A Tale for the Time Being started it. I will be reading more Murakami in 2015, perhaps 1Q84 — or does anyone have another favorite Murakami to set me on?
Most unexpectedly, I zipped through The World We Found, by Thrity Umrigar in just a couple of days while down with a bad cold. The story is of three old college friends planning to leave India to visit a fourth friend in the US who is dying of a brain tumor. However, one of the three is trapped in an oppressive Muslim marriage and it is also the story of her being set free from her circumstances. The writing was super fluid and the characters interesting, but I felt like too much was unresolved in the book which ends as the three board the plane. There were side characters that abetted the Muslim woman’s escape that were left perilously hanging, and some political back story on the characters that didn’t seem to have a point. I wish the author had continued the book to the US and brought the subplots to conclusion. This book ends the year with a solid .
Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
translated from Japanese by Philip Gabriel
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
Harper Collins, 2013