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The ShortRead: Haruki Murakami

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The ShortRead of 13th August

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Author: Haruki Murakami

What's the story:

It's the one that English-speaking Haruki Murakami fans have been waiting for. When Colorless was published in Japan in April 2013, it sold a million copies in a week. Praise and acclaim populated every review. An exploration of the dark pits and agonies of adolescence, Philip Gabriel's translation of Murakami's latest work has finally touched down in the UK.

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school, linked by an odd coincidence: all their names contained a colour. Two boys were called Akamatsu (‘red pine’) and Oumi (‘blue sea’), while the girls’ names were Shirane (‘white root’) and Kurono (‘black field’). Tazaki lacked a colour. One day his friends announce that they didn't want to see him, or talk to him, ever again - this is his journey to discover why.

All first editions of the novel include a special sheet of stickers designed by five Japanese illustrators. Watch this video for inspiration on how to personalise your own front cover.

Release date: Out now from Harvill Secker

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Extract

From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying. He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed – becoming an adult – meant nothing. Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn’t say why he hadn’t taken this final step. Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Perhaps he didn’t commit suicide then because he couldn’t conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death. But method was beside the point. If there had been a door within reach that led straight to death, he wouldn’t have hesitated to push it open, without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life. For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby.

I really should have died then, Tsukuru often told himself. Then this world, the one in the here and now, wouldn’t exist. It was a captivating, bewitching thought. The present world wouldn’t exist, and reality would no longer be real. As far as this world was concerned, he would simply no longer exist – just as this world would no longer exist for him.

At the same time, Tsukuru couldn’t fathom why he had reached this point, where he was teetering over the precipice. There was an actual event that had led him to this place – this he knew all too well – but why should death have such a hold over him, enveloping him in its embrace for nearly half a year? Envelop – the word expressed it precisely. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, Tsukuru had fallen into the bowels of death, one untold day after another, lost in a dark, stagnant void.

It was as if he were sleepwalking through life, as if he had already died but not yet noticed it. When the sun rose, so would Tsukuru – he’d brush his teeth, throw on whatever clothes were at hand, ride the train to college, and take notes in class. Like a person in a storm desperately grasping at a lamppost, he clung to this daily routine. He only spoke to people when necessary, and after school, he would return to his solitary apartment, sit on the floor, lean back against the wall, and ponder death and the failures of his life. Before him lay a huge, dark abyss that ran straight through to the earth’s core. All he could see was a thick cloud of nothingness swirling around him; all he could hear was a profound silence squeezing his eardrums.

When he wasn’t thinking about death, his mind was blank. It wasn’t hard to keep from thinking. He didn’t read any newspapers, didn’t listen to music, and had no sexual desire to speak of. Events occurring in the outside world were, to him, inconsequential. When he grew tired of his room, he wandered aimlessly around the neighborhood or went to the station, where he sat on a bench and watched the trains arriving and departing, over and over again.

He took a shower every morning, shampooed his hair well, and did the laundry twice a week. Cleanliness was another one of his pillars: laundry, bathing, and teeth brushing. He barely noticed what he ate. He had lunch at the college cafeteria, but other than that, he hardly consumed a decent meal. When he felt hungry he stopped by the local supermarket and bought an apple or some vegetables. Sometimes he ate plain bread, washing it down with milk straight from the carton. When it was time to sleep, he’d gulp down a glass of whiskey as if it were a dose of medicine. Luckily he wasn’t much of a drinker, and a small dose of alcohol was all it took to send him off to sleep. He never dreamed. But even if he had dreamed, even if dreamlike images arose from the edges of his mind, they would have found nowhere to perch on the slippery slopes of his consciousness, instead quickly sliding off, down into the void.

The reason why death had such a hold on Tsukuru Tazaki was clear. One day his four closest friends, the friends he’d known for a long time, announced that they did not want to see him, or talk with him, ever again. It was a sudden, decisive declaration, with no room for compromise. They gave no explanation, not a word, for this harsh pronouncement. And Tsukuru didn’t dare ask.

He’d been friends with the four of them since high school, though when they cut him off, Tsukuru had already left his home¬town and was attending college in Tokyo. So being banished didn’t have any immediate negative effects on his daily routine – it wasn’t like there would be awkward moments when he’d run into them on the street. But that was just quibbling. The pain he felt was, if anything, more intense, and weighed down on him even more greatly because of the physical distance. Alienation and loneliness became a cable that stretched hundreds of miles long, pulled to the breaking point by a gigantic winch. And through that taut line, day and night, he received indecipherable messages. Like a gale blowing between trees, those messages varied in strength as they reached him in fragments, stinging his ears.

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