Haruki Murakami's new novel becomes an instant bestseller in Japan

"Murakami mania" has gripped Japan since the release of Haruki Murakami's new novel, 'Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage' at midnight on Friday. No English translation is yet planned.

Kyodo News/AP
Copies of Haruki Murakami's newest novel are piled high in a Tokyo bookstore.

Murakami mania is sweeping Japan as “rockstar novelist” Haruki Murakami’s latest novel hit Tokyo stores at midnight Friday after a three-year hiatus.

After months of tight-lipped secrecy, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” a 370-page novel about loss and isolation, arrived to long lines, applause, and instant bestseller status in the island nation.

According to the UK’s Guardian, “Hundreds of Huraki Murakami devotees queu[ed] at midnight outside Tokyo bookshops…. Newspapers and broadcasters rushed to post reviews of the book … [and] fans and journalists stayed up all night to get to grips with Murakami’s first major novel in three years.” (The UK’s Telegraph notes that one bookshop even temporarily renamed itself after Murakami to mark the novel’s release.) 

Different from the cult novelist’s massive three-volume love story, “1Q84,” which made Murakami a global bestselling author and perennial Nobel Prize favorite, “Colorless” is a grimmer tale.

According to a review by Japanese paper Aashi Shimbun, the book tells “the tale of a man who tries to overcome his sense of loss and isolation, which has accumulated in the dark part of his heart.” In it, protagonist Tazaki reflects on his past. Rejected by his friends due to his family’s lack of status, Tazaki is lonely, emotionally scarred, and constantly reflects on death. When he meets a woman, he is inspired to explore his past and his feelings of rejection.

“Tazaki feels as if he is an empty person who lacks color or personality – living as a fugitive from his own life,” writes Aashi Shimbun. That is emphasized by the fact that his four closest friends in school each had names that represented colors while Tazaki’s name was “colorless,” lending the book its title.

Besides its stark departure from his previous book, the biggest surprise in “Colorless” is the way it came about.

“One day I just felt like it, and I sat at my desk and started to write the first few lines of this story," Murakami said in quotations printed on the cover of the book. "Then for about half a year, I continued to write this story without knowing anything like what would happen, what type of people would appear and how long the story would be.”

According to Reuters, the book is already a bestseller in Japan, with an initial release of 600,000 copies. 

For now, Murakami fans in the US will have to wait – or learn Japanese. Plans have not yet been released regarding English translations.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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