Text read by Mary Peters

What happens, when you are a close-knit group of friends and suddenly, one day, without any warning, you are excluded for no reason?

This is precisely the question the Japanese author Haruki Murakami asks in his bestselling novel “Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage”.

A group of five teenagers, 3 boys and 2 girls all volunteered for a school holiday project. Each person was unique and the group of five all complemented each other perfectly. Growing up in Nagoya, Japan’s fourth-largest city, situated between Tokyo and Osaka, these teenagers lived by special rules. Five was the optimum number, becoming two couples was not desired as one would lose out. Furthermore, the group would only be complete if all five did something together.

Of these 5 people, only Tsukuru’s name could not be associated with a colour and this led him to feel inadequate. Not having a colour meant not having an identity and very little self-esteem. Whilst four friends stay in Nagoya after graduating from high school, Tsukuru leaves to move to Tokyo and study Engineering. He then works in his dream job, building railway stations. He leads a quiet, uneventful life but he regularly goes home, until one day, the contact is broken, and no reason is given.

Tsukuru’s pilgrimage begins with the contemplation of suicide. It seems the only logical step for a colourless person to undertake. By some miracle, after 6 months of agony, he emerges out of this phase, a physically changed man. Tsukuru, becomes friends with a younger male student, called Haida. So intense is their friendship and so close their interests that Tsukuru is forced to question himself again, as strange dreams, stories and classical music take him on a mental pilgrimage. The friendship remains platonic and after two years, Haida leaves without any word. A sense of déjà vu returns to Tsukuru.

Sixteen years after the break-up of the original group of five, Tsukuru, now 36, meets and falls in love with Sara, who is 2 years older. As they date, she senses that he is blocked and encourages him to explore the source of his pain and resume his pilgrimage by discovering his past. He returns to Nagoya and travels to Finland to seek the truth. In the process, he learns more about himself and that not having any colour, being transparent, can actually be a virtue. Others see you differently to how you see yourself.

This is a book about friendship, human relationships, the pain and suffering that people can inflict on each other when truth, protection, and trying to do what is best gets unnecessarily confused and misunderstood.

Haruki Murakami, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage, originally published 2015. The book has also been translated into French (L’incolore Tsukuru Tazaki et ses années de pèlerinage) and into German. (Die Pilgerjahre des farblosen Herrn Tazaki.)

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