On My Travel Bucket List

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Old lady, the Witches' Market (Mercado de Hechiceria), La Paz, Bolivia
Cherry Blossoms (Yoshino Cherry Tree) / 桜花(ソメイヨシノ) Weiter Gehts - Tschüß Titisee
St. Petersburg Church Domes

Faroe Islands

// Visit the Witches' Market at La Paz, Bolivia
// See the cherry blossom at Yoshino, Japan
// Get lost in the Black Forest at Titisee, Germany
// Ride the Trans-Siberian Express from St Petersburg to Beijing 
// Explore the colourful houses of the Faroe Islands

*Click pictures for source

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage || Haruki Murakami

Monday, 20 October 2014

In case you haven't picked up on the last five million times I've mentioned it, I love Haruki Murakami and he's firmly up there as one of my favourite authors of all time. I've been excited about Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki for months and finally managed to get my hands on a copy at my local library at the beginning of October. In fact, I was so excited about its release that I actually read it in hardcover, and I have very strong feelings about hardcovers. Sure, they look great and are more resilient than paperbacks, but books are for long train journeys, curling up in bed with or whiling away an afternoon in the park and those things are HEAVY. Reading should not involve physical exercise that isn't reaching across to pick up your brew and a biscuit. But I digress.

Before I start, it feels a bit strange attributing the style of writing and the language purely to Murakami himself since it's a translation from the Japanese original. I can't vouch for how faithful this particular translation is, but it's brilliantly done nevertheless and is a stunning work in its own right. No doubt the translator has to share a portion of the credit, but for time and convenience I'm going to talk about the novel as if it were an English language original.

Let's talk a little bit about the plot. Tsukuru Tazaki is one fifth of a close-knit high school friendship group, who are connected by their names - all contain a colour, Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine', Oumi, ‘blue sea', Shirane, ‘white root', and Kurono, ‘black field'. Tazaki is the only surname not to feature a colour. One day, the group announces unexpectedly and unexplainedly that it no longer wishes to see or talk to Tsukuru ever again. Tsukuru continues a solitary existence unable to form an intimate relationship with anybody until he meets Sara, who convinces him to return to the past and find out what happened all those years ago. 

One of the most  common criticisms I see of Murakami is that his work is very formulaic and that once you've read one, you've read them all. I get that and it's completely true, but I think that's what makes me love his books so much. I fall for the lonely middle-aged protagonist leading that oh-so-boring life, I root for the love affair that's doomed to fail, I love the subtle nuances and the sudden  realisation that you're not quite in the world you thought you were. I love the way Murakami explores the human condition and the complex relationships between people, they way he builds up those surreal alternative worlds that just slot into place alongside mundane everyday life and the way the language dances so fluidly across the page. It gets me every time.

The novel doesn't really have much of a plot, it has no obvious message and it certainly doesn't solve any of the mysteries it builds up over its 298 pages. It should be deeply frustrating, but somehow it isn't and by tying up the loose ends the novel would have lost the very essence of what makes it so brilliant. I'm not usually fond of having to draw my own conclusions, but it just works.

It's no The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore or Norwegian Wood and I probably wouldn't recommend it to a first-time Murakami reader, but it will definitely be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of Murakami fans. But you knew that much already.

My rating || 4.5/5

Scenes from a Weekend

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

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I think the ability to fully savour a weekend is a sign that you're officially an adult. When I was studying, Saturday and Sunday were my least favourite days. Partly because I usually had to work and partly because I found myself with so much free time during the week (it still makes me laugh when students complain about their workload - wait until life happens!), town was always much busier than it was through the week, and no student in their right mind would even consider a night out on a Friday or Saturday. Nowadays I try to cherish my days off as much as possible, and try to strike a balance between cramming so much in to two days that I'm drained again come Monday and being so deliciously lazy that I feel guilty for not using my time wisely. 

This weekend was a harmonious combination of both and it was spent drinking the first Pumpkin Spiced Latte of the season, sharing a Sainsbury's pizza deal for four (between two), visiting the Here's One We Made Earlier exhibition at The Lowry (wonderful and terrifying in equal measure - I don't remember Why Bird being quite that creepy...), eating deep-friend pakora bread on the waterfront and spending far too much money in Whittards. See, bliss! The return of Monday morning was not met with a very warm welcome. 

Is it Friday yet?
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