Quotes are one of the aspects that got me so into Haruki Murakami. Before I had even read the majority of his work, I would trawl through the internet reading excepts of his writing, pondering at the meanings and losing myself in the pure poetry of his words. When his novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was released in English back in August 2014, I thought it would be a good idea to write down any quotes I enjoyed as I read through the book. I finished Colorless in no less than a day and sure enough, there were numerous excerpts I adored. I’ve been sitting on the quotes for over a year now, so I thought why not share them with the internet; there are a couple that probably haven’t made it online yet. And so, here are my favourite quotes from Murakami’s latest work, preceded by the page number they’re located on from the English hardback published by Harvill Secker.
‘Think about it, and you’ll figure it out.’ Ao said, finally.
Tsukuru was speechless. What was he talking about? Think about it? Think about what? If I think any harder about anything, I won’t know who I am anymore.
‘You can hide memories, suppress them, but you can’t erase the history that produced them.’ Sara looked directly into his eyes. ‘If nothing else, you need to remember that. You can’t erase history, or change it. It would be like destroying yourself.’
‘Why are we talking about this?’ Tsukuru said, half to himself, trying to sound upbeat. ‘I’ve never talked to anybody about this before, and never planned to.’
Sara smiled faintly. ‘Maybe you needed to talk with somebody. More than you ever imagined.’
Tsukuru, of course, had no idea what Sara was thinking about. And he didn’t want to reveal to her what was on his mind. There are certain thoughts that, no matter what, you have to keep inside. And it was those kinds of thoughts that ran through Tsukuru’s head as he rode the train home.
Jealousy – at least as far as he understood it from his dream – was the most hopeless prison in the world. Jealousy was not a place he was forced into by someone else, but a jail in which the inmate entered voluntarily, locked the door, and threw away the key. And not another soul in the world knew he was locked inside. Of course, if he wanted to escape, he could do so. The prison was, after all, his own heart. But he couldn’t make that decision. His heart was as hard as a stone wall. This was the very essence of jealousy.
“Ideas are like beards. Men don’t have them until they grow up. Somebody said that, but I can’t remember who.”
‘I’ve made up my mind. I always want to be free. I like cooking, but I don’t want to be holed up in a kitchen doing it as a job. If that happened, I’d end up hating somebody.’
‘The cook hates the waiter, and they both hate the customer,’ Haida said. ‘A line from the Arnold Wesker play The Kitchen. People whose freedom is taken away always end up hating somebody. Right? I know I don’t want to live like that.’
‘Can I ask you a question?’ Tsukuru said.
‘In different religions prophets fall into a kind of ecstasy and receive a message from an absolute being.’
‘And this takes place somewhere that transcends free will, right? Always passively.’
‘And that message surpasses the boundaries of the individual prophet and functions in a broader, universal way.’
‘And in that message there is neither contradiction nor equivocation.’
Haida nodded silently.
‘I don’t get it,’ Tsukuru said. ‘If that’s true, then what’s the value of human free will?’
‘That’s a great question,’ Haida said, and smiled quietly. The kind of smile a cat gives as it stretches out, napping in the sun. ‘I wish I had an answer for you, but I don’t. Not yet.’
“It’s strange, isn’t it? No matter how quiet and conformist a person’s life seems, there’s always a time in the past where they reached an impasse. A time when they went a little crazy. I guess people need that sort of stage in their lives.”
‘The world isn’t that easily turned upside down,’ Haida replied. ‘It’s people who are turned upside down. I don’t feel bad about missing that.’
“Talent can be a nice thing to have sometimes. You look good, attract attention, and if you’re lucky, you make some money. Women flock to you. In that sense, having talent’s preferable to having none. But talent only functions when it’s supported by a tough, unyielding physical and mental focus. All it takes is one screw in your brain to break down, and your concentration vanishes, like the dew at dawn. A simple toothache, or stiff shoulders, and you can’t play the piano well. It’s true. I’ve actually experienced it. A single cavity, one aching shoulder, and the beautiful vision and sound I hoped to convey goes out the window. The human body’s that fragile. It’s a complex system that can be damaged by something very trivial, and in most cases once it’s damaged, it can’t easily be restored. A cavity or stiff shoulders you can get over, but there are a lot of things you can’t get past. If talent’s the foundation you rely on, and yet it’s so unreliable that you have no idea what’s going to happen to it the next minute, what meaning does it have?”
Tsukuru decided not to pursue it further. He could think about it all he wanted and never find an answer. He placed this doubt inside a drawer in his mind labelled ‘Pending’ and postponed any further consideration. He had many such drawers inside him, with numerous doubts and questions tucked away.
There must be something in him, something fundamental that disenchanted people. ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki,’ he said aloud. I basically have nothing to offer to others. If you think about it, I don’t even have anything to offer myself.
‘People change,’ Sara said.
‘True enough,’ Tsukuru said. ‘People do change. And no matter how close we once were, and how much we opened up to each other, maybe neither of us knew anything substantial about the other.’
Unceasing crowds of people arrived out of nowhere, automatically formed lines, boarded trains in order, and were carried off somewhere. Tsukuru was moved by how many people actually existed in the world. And he was likewise moved by the sheer number of green train cars. It was surely a miracle, he thought – how so many people, in so many railroad cars, are systematically transported, as if it were nothing. How all those people have places to go, places to return to.
“You can hide memories, but you can’t erase history.”
“Talent is like a container. You can work as hard as you want, but the size will never change. It’ll only hold so much water and no more.”
‘I think you just need to be honest with yourself, as much as you can,’ Tsukuru said, choosing his words. ‘All you can do is be as honest and free as you can. I’m sorry, but that’s about all I can say.’
“Kind of a major paradox, wouldn’t you say? As we go through life we gradually discover who we are, but the more we discover, the more we lose ourselves.”
‘Swimming feels wonderful – almost as good as flying through the air,’ Tsukuru explained to Sara one time.
‘Have you ever flown through the air?’ she asked.
‘Not yet,’ Tsukuru said.
Take your time. I can wait, Sara had said. But things weren’t that simple. People are in constant motion, never stationary. No one knows what will happen next.
Being able to feel pain was good, he thought. It’s when you can’t even feel any pain anymore that you’re in real trouble.
Everyone has their own special sound they live with, though they seldom have the chance to actually hear it.
Maybe I am just an empty, futile person, he thought. But it was precisely because there was nothing inside of me that these people could find, if even for a short time, a place where they belonged. Like a nocturnal bird seeks a safe place to rest during the day in a vacant attic. The birds like that empty, dim, silent place. If that were true, then maybe he should be happy he was hollow.
“Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language.”
The human heart is like a night bird. Silently waiting for something, and when the time comes, it flies straight toward it.
One heart is not connected to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony.
“We survived. You and I. And those who survive have a duty. Our duty is to do our best to keep on living. Even if our lives are not perfect.”
‘Let’s say you are an empty vessel. So what? What’s wrong with that?’ Eri said. ‘You’re still a wonderful, attractive vessel. And really, does anybody know who they are? So why not be a completely beautiful vessel? The kind people feel good about, the kind people want to entrust with precious belongings.’
“If something is important enough, a little mistake isn’t going to ruin it all, or make it vanish.”
The right words always seemed to come too late.
Our lives are like a complex musical score, Tsukuru thought. Filled with all sorts of cryptic writing, sixteenth and thirty-second notes and other strange signs. It’s next to impossible to correctly interpret these, and even if you could, and then could transpose them into the correct sounds, there’s no guarantee that people would correctly understand, or appreciate, the meaning therein. No guarantee it would make people happy. Why must the workings of people’s lives be so convoluted?
“I’m sorry to have woken you.”
“It’s all right. I’m glad to know that time still keeps on flowing at four in the morning.”
There are countless things in the world for which affection is not enough. Life is long, and sometimes cruel. Sometimes victims are needed. Someone has to take on that role. And human bodies are fragile, easily damaged. Cut them, and they bleed.
He didn’t want to let that feeling slip from his grasp. Once lost, he might never happen across that warmth again. If he had to lose it, he would rather lose himself.