by Haruki Murakami
Translated by Philip Gabriel.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014
The fictional works of Haruki Murakami have always been structured according to a quest narrative, but Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage explicitly prioritizes this trajectory. The novel deviates from the author’s publications since Norwegian Wood in its confinement to the mundane, chronological sphere, rather than alternating between mimetic reality and “the other world,” or the supernatural, temporally suspended state where the Murakami protagonist negotiates his or her ontological split within a reified terrain of the subconscious. The author’s predilection for metatextual cartography can be traced to the literalization of the psyche into a mind-map, the most facile identification being the subterranean well—ido in Japanese—with the Freudian id. With the exception of a few comparatively realistic prose works, Boku, the omnipresent and interchangeable Murakami (male) hero, is unfailingly propelled on a quest that culminates in a katabasis (surpassing traditional confines to the horizontal plane) to the other world, following a predetermined ascetic, meditative period in which the protagonist (and reader) must await properly timed revelations through an established ritual of spiritual purging and fortification in a geographically exiled, historically charged space. This ascetic practice— as seen in A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore—necessitates isolation and corporeal and spatial purity (physical exercise, housecleaning, abstinence from alcohol and sexual relations, meditation) in a temporally and spatially ‘sacred space’ (the mountain retreat, the well, and the cabin, respectively) in preparation for legitimate crossing...