Tuesday, 8 July 2014

years of wandering and wondering

I don't like hardcover books very much, they're not very practical to be carried around when commuting. The things I dislike hate the most however is the dusk jacket: I find it impractical and normally it tears inside my bag or wrinkles badly within few days I'm reading the book. The first thing I do when I buy an hardcover edition is to put the dusk jacket in the recycling bin.

And that's the first thing I did when I unwrapped Murakami's "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage". But why buying the hardcover instead of the paperback?
Well, I had a discount coupon that was about to expire and, some months after having finished "1Q84", I felt ready to play the Haruki Murakami Bingo once more.

The first Murakami book I read was "ノルウェイの森": in Italy, in the spirit of our long-standing tradition of reinterpreting the titles, it was published as "Tokyo blues".
I started reading it in high school but quickly set it aside: it's not that I didn't like it, but it felt so void of structure, sense, and the description of what people were wearing, eating, listening to unnerved me. I was very much into Tolstoj at the time, having just finished "Anna Karenina" and the difference between the two looked an ocean too wide to be crossed.
Yet, I couldn't really discard it completely, there was something in there, something I had no words for but that was calling me: few days later, I picked the book form the shelf again and finished it.
I don't remember much of those days, aside the feeling of being dazed and slightly confused each time I closed the books.

With the years and his other books, I learnt a lot about this "Murakami effect" on my everyday life.
It is a feeling of displacement in space and time, probably the closest experience to traveling in a Tardis this world will ever be able to offer me.

When I start reading one of his novel or short story, I step into a world that runs on a different pace than my own, based on laws that don't really apply to my world.
It's a place suspended in a different timeline, with people living in a way I can't completely comprehend. Before I can even start looking for some sense in his words, it happens quite often I snap close the book, mildly annoyed at its content and creator. What is the point of it? What's the purpose of me reading about these people? They all seemed to live in flats with turntable and huge stack of jazz records, and drink Cutty Sark as if it were cheaper than water. Yet for all the annoyance I feel for these people and their often unexplained actions, I can't help myself: I'm drawn back to the book, longing to be part of it, even if only as observer.
At a certain point I simply stop questioning the lack of explanation on the action of the characters and the loose ends that are not closed. In this at least Murakami is extremely close to real life: we are most of the time not given explanation on why people around us behave the way they do (I'm the first one never explaining why I do the things I do the way I do them) and most of the time we don't know the "after" of people that we met and that are not part of our lives any longer.
In real life, this is enough to spend plenty of time over-thinking even the smallest, meaningless of the events. On Murakami's pages it just happens, and you quickly move on, because Murakami deems more important for you to know what the characters had as dessert in that specific Tokyo cafe, rather why people simply stop showing up and disappear without a trace.
The complexity of life is something that I can embrace without tension or anxiety when I read Murakami.

He is one of the few authors that make me feel that longing to re-open the book I've just closed: it's not a matter of like vs. dislike, it's a matter of engagement. It has nothing to do with his literary merits (there're better qualified people that can explain this side of his work), it's about the ability he has of connect with my emotions, it's an empathy bridge he builds with his words and that allows me to step into this parallel world.

With colorless Tsukuru, it happened the same thing; I started reading it and immediately turned pessimistic: "I'm never going to finish it, damn what is the meaning of all this? I should be doing something more productive with my time."
By the time I turned page 20, I had already snapped the book close twice.
And reopened it shortly after.
I think one of the fascinating thing for me is that this time I have a small common ground with what happens in the book: I've finished reading it on the eve of me turning 36, the age of Tsukuru.
For the first time, I felt some deeper connection with the world on the pages. Like Tsukuru, I'm pretty much colorless and the pain that shaped my past and present is something I've started dealing only now.
Like Tsukuru, I struggled to find the right words, they always come to my mind when it's way too late for them. As one of the character says to Tsukuru, in the life of each one of us there are things way too complicated to be explained, in any language.
It's something I knew already, but that I never truly admitted to myself, until I read it on the page. The words are so simple, now that they've been printed on the page, so why did it take me so much time to find them?

This time around I'm really struggling to leave the Murakami effect behind. I went back to reading a book more connected to my everyday life, but part of me is still not back, lost in a world with glass of Cutty Sark, clear nights in Tokyo after the rain and the sound of Lizst's "Années de pèlegrinage"; I'm pretty sure this Virginia is not so keen of coming back very soon and, for once, I'll indulge myself and let her/me be more guiltless vacant.

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