Killing Commendatore
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Killing Commendatore

Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel, Ted Goossen

The epic new novel from the internationally acclaimed and best-selling author of 1Q84.

In Killing Commendatore, a thirty-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a strange painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors.

A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art - as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby - Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.

Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen

Review

Smoothly, calmly, Haruki Murakami leads us out to the latest outpost of his fictional universe. We survey the hillside and the lonely house in which the narrator has come to live. Once, it belonged to the father of a friend of his, a famous painter. And now, the narrator, a painter himself, but not famous, has landed up there. We know, of course, we readers, that there will be something else out in those woods. Something other. Something that has been waiting for this not-famous painter-narrator to take up residence in the remote cabin. Something is waiting for him, and it will insinuate itself into his life and then invert it. There will be meals and sex and weirdness, and we readers will not blink. We’ll take it all in. Or, okay, we will blink, but not often. This painter’s life, and ours, will get inverted, then inverted again. There’s something out there, waiting, in the woods.

Haruki Murakami’s new novel is a great big joyous elephant of a book. The care that he takes with the set-up of the ‘normal life’ of the protagonist, followed by the narrative’s spiral into multiple strangenesses, means that the reader has a reliable backdrop of calm against which to position, almost to arrange, the arrival of the inevitable weird elements. As in other fiction by Murakami, I am almost convinced that he is as surprised and delighted as I am by what turns up on the page. In some of his other books, this improvisatory effect has extended into the conclusion of the book, making the endings unsatisfactory. But in Killing Commendatore, Murakami meticulously constructs a physical space from which to unfurl unconventional ideas and characters, then he carefully folds those extraordinary things back out of sight, but not out of mind.


Bernard Caleo is a member of the Readings events team.

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