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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

by

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Cover

ISBN13: 9780385352109
ISBN10: 0385352107
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Reading Group Guide

  The introduction, author biography, discussion questions, and suggested reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, the eagerly anticipated new novel by Haruki Murakami.

1.   What is the significance of the name of the novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage? Why is Tsukuru branded “colorless”? Would you say that this an accurate description of him? Is this how Tsukuru sees himself or is it how he is seen by others? What kind of pilgrimage does Tsukuru embark upon and how does he change as a result of this pilgrimage? What causes these changes?

2.   Why does Tsukuru wait so many years before attempting to find out why he was banished from the group? How does he handle the deep depression he feels as a result of this rejection and how is he changed by this period of suffering? Is Tsukuru the only character who suffers in this way? If not, who else suffers at what is the cause? Do you believe that their distress could have been avoided? If so, how?

3.   Do you consider Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki a realistic work of fiction? Why or why not? What fantastical or surreal elements does Murakami employ in the novel and what purpose do they serve? What do these elements reveal that strictly realistic elements might not? Kuro says, “I do think that sometimes a certain kind of dream can be even stronger than reality” (310). In considering genre, do you believe that this is true?

4.   Tsukuru reveals that his father chose his name, which means “to make things.” Is this an apt name for Tsukuru? Why or why not? How does Tsukuru’s understanding of his own name affect the way that he sees himself? Where else in the story does the author address making things? Are they portrayed as positive or useful activities?

5.   Why is Tsukuru’s friendship with Haida so important? What is the outcome of this relationship? How does the relationship ultimately affect Tsukuru’s perception of himself? Does it alter Tsukuru’s response to the rejection he was subjected to years earlier in any way?

6.   Why does Haida share with Tsukuru the story about his father and the strange piano player who speaks of death? What might this teach us about the purpose of storytelling? How does Tsukuru react to this story? Is he persuaded by Haida’s tale? What does the story teach us about belief and the power of persuasion?

7.   Sara says that we live in an age where “we’re surrounded by an enormous amount of information about other people. If you feel like it, you can easily gather than information about them. Having said that, we still hardly know anything about people” (148). Do the characters in the story know each other very well? Do you believe that technology in today’s world has helped or hindered us in knowing each other better?

8.   When Tsukuru finally sees three of his friends again, how have each of them changed? How do they react to seeing one another after all this time? Are their reactions strange and unexpected or predictable? What unexpected changes have taken place over the years, and why are they surprising to Tsukuru? Has anything remained consistent?

9.   When Tsukuru visits the pizzeria in Finland, how does he react after realizing he is the only one there who is alone? How is this different from his usual response to isolation throughout the story? Discuss what this might indicate about the role that setting plays in determining Tsukuru’s emotional state.

10.   Does Tsukuru’s self-image and understanding of his role within the group align with how they saw Tsukuru and perceived his role in their group? If not, what causes differences in their perceptions? Do Tsukuru’s thoughts about his rejection from the group align with his friends’ understanding of why he was banished? How did Tsukuru’s banishment affect the other members of the group?

11.   Why do Tsukuru and Kuro say that they may be partly responsible for Shiro’s murder? Do you believe that the group did the right thing by protecting Shiro? Why or why not?

12.   The Franz Liszt song “Le mal du pays” is a recurring motif in the novel. Shiro plays the song on the piano; Haida leaves a recording of it behind; Tsukuru listens to it again and again; Kuro also has a recording. Why might the author have chosen to include this song in particular in the story? What effect does its repetition have on the reader—and the characters in the novel?

13.   Sara tells Tsukuru: “You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them” (44). What does she mean by this? Do you agree with her statement?

14. Kuro says that she believes an evil spirit had inhabited Shiro, and as Tsukuru is leaving her home, Kuro tells him not to let the bad elves get him. Elsewhere in the story, the piano player asks Haida’s father whether he believes in a devil. Does the novel seem to indicate whether there is such a thing as evil—existing apart from mankind, or is darkness characterized as an innate part of man’s psyche?

15.   While visiting Kuro, Tsukuru comes to the realization “One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds” (322). This, he says, “is what lies at the root of true harmony.” What does he mean by this? Do you agree with his statement?

16.   Why does Tsukuru seem to be so interested in railroad stations? How does his interest in these stations affect his relationship with his high school friends? Later in his life, how does this interest affect his understanding of friendship and relationships? The author revisits Tsukuru’s interest in railroad stations at the end of the book and refers to the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subways in 1995 great disaster of 3/11 in Japan. Why do you think that Murakami makes mention of this incident? Does this reference change your interpretation of the story?

17.   Is Tsukuru’s decision with respect to Sara at the end of the story indicative of some kind of personal progress? What is significant about his gesture? How has Tsukuru changed by the story’s end? Do you believe that the final scene provides sufficient resolution of the issues raised at the start of the story? Does it matter that readers are not ultimately privy to Sara’s response to Tsukuru’s gesture?

18.   Tsukuru wishes that he had told Kuro, “Not everything was lost in the flow of time” (385). What does he believe was preserved although time has gone by? What did the members of the group ultimately gain through their friendship despite their split?

19. How does Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki compare to Haruki Murakami’s earlier novels? What themes do the works share? What elements of Murakami’s latest novel are different or unexpected?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 12 comments:

Eric Watson, February 24, 2015 (view all comments by Eric Watson)
I've read a lot of Murakami's works and this is one has quickly become one of my favorites. Although it's not the most surreal of his works, it definitely provides a healthy dose of his trademark whimsy. At its core it deals with how we experience feelings of loss and alienation, but in a way that truly only Murakami could explore.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
Tsukuru, October 29, 2014 (view all comments by Tsukuru)
I don't usually splurge on new, hardcovers, but this is such a beautiful book that I couldn't resist.

It's an easy, dreamy read. Best read before bed.
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Elaine Froneberger, October 26, 2014 (view all comments by Elaine Froneberger)
Oh, how I wanted to love this book! I was anticipating this release in a way that I haven't looked forward to a book in years. But, I have to say that I was disappointed. It's a very introspective story, and it's told in the manner I would expect, but it was missing something. Maybe I'm just spoiled after 1Q84. It was a deep and a shallow book all in one, and while I felt sorrow for and truly empathized with 'Colorless Tsukuru' and was angered by his friends, this is a book that didn't move me the way that I had hoped.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780385352109
Author:
Murakami, Haruki
Publisher:
Knopf Publishing Group
Translator:
Gabriel, Philip
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20140831
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
7.31 x 5.21 x 1.5 in 0.96 lb

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage Used Hardcover
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Product details 400 pages Knopf Publishing Group - English 9780385352109 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki may be a simple story, but it carries an emotional heft that feels like a throwback to one of Murakami's classic early novels, like Norwegian Wood. His ephemeral and effortless prose flows like a perfectly choreographed dream and will leave you as satisfied as a long afternoon nap.

"Staff Pick" by ,

About as introspective as a novel can be, Murakami's latest spends its entirety inside the somewhat sad mind of its protagonist. Damaged by a betrayal he cannot comprehend, Tsukuru is a man wholly undone by his closest friends. After years of loneliness, and only after stumbling into a new relationship with a woman who insists on his complete presence, Tsukuru realizes he must unravel his tangled past. Hoping for a new life of connections and companionship, Tsukuru tracks down his former friends and is, perhaps, a bit more kind than they deserve. Murakami writes with crisp, clear prose, and his characters feel wonderfully alive. A detailed character study, "Colorless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage" is delicately done; a lovely read. 

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Murakami's (1Q84) latest novel, which sold more than a million copies during its first week on sale in Japan, is a return to the mood and subject matter of the acclaimed writer's earlier work. Living a simple, quotidian life as a train station engineer, Tsukuru is compelled to reexamine his past after a girlfriend suggests he reconnect with a group of friends from high school. A tight-knit fivesome for years, the group suddenly alienated Tsukuru under mysterious circumstances when he was in college. For months after the break, not knowing what had gone wrong, he became obsessed with death and slowly lost his sense of self: 'I've always seen myself as an empty person, lacking color and identity. Maybe that was my role in the group. To be empty.' Feeling his life will only progress if he can tie up those emotional loose ends, Tsukuru journeys through Japan and into Europe to meet with the members of the group and unravel what really happened 16 years before. The result is a vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , “Hypnotically fascinating....A journey of immense magnitude, both physically...and, of course, metaphysically, as Tazaki attempts to make sense of his own inner world and the dreams that shape his other dimension. There are always other dimensions in Murakami’s novels, and while they can seem impenetrable, they eventually feed into and help vivify the powerful personal dramas taking place on a purely human level. In the end, Murakami writes love stories, all the more tender and often tragic for their exploration of the multiple realities in which his lovers live.”
"Review" by , “Murakami devotees will sigh with relief at finding his usual memes — the moon, Cutty Sark, a musical theme, ringing telephones, a surreal story-within-a story (this time about passing on death and possibly six fingers). That the novel sold over one million copies its first week in Japan guarantees — absolutely, deservedly so — instant best-seller status stateside as well.”
"Review" by , “One of Murakami’s more memorable protagonists...a testament to the mystery, magic, and mastery of this much-revered Japanese writer’s imaginative powers. Murakami’s moxie is characterized by a brilliant detective-story-like blend of intuition, hard-nosed logic, impeccable pacing, and poetic revelations....[He] reveals Tazaki’s pilgrimage through stunning psychologically and philosophically charged passages that are alternately all too real and almost hallucinatory....Tazaki’s quest restores him to the cycle of love, loss, and resurrection that is time’s eternal flow in surprising, delightful, and sometimes frightening ways, none of which will be lost on lucky readers of this new masterpiece.”
"Review" by , “Another tour de force from Japan’s greatest living novelist....Murakami writes with the same murky sense of time that characterized 1Q84, but this book, short and haunting, is really of a piece with older work such as Norwegian Wood and, yes, Kafka on the Shore. The reader will enjoy watching Murakami play with color symbolism down to the very last line of the story, even as Tsukuru sinks deeper into a dangerous enigma....A trademark story that blends the commonplace with the nightmarish in a Japan full of hollow men.”
"Synopsis" by , The new novel — a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan — from the internationally acclaimed author, his first since IQ84.
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