When a thirty-something portrait painter is abandoned by his wife, he secludes himself in the mountain home of a world famous artist. One day, the young painter hears a noise from the attic, and upon investigation, he discovers a previously unseen painting. By unearthing this hidden work of art, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances; and to close it, he must undertake a perilous journey into a netherworld that only Haruki Murakami could conjure. A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art, Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.
Murakami s latest (following Men Without Women) is a meticulous yet gripping novel whose escalating surreal tone complements the author s tight focus on the domestic and the mundane. The unnamed narrator, a talented but unambitious portrait-painter in Tokyo, discovers his wife is having an affair, quits painting, and embarks on a meandering road trip. The narrator s friend offers to let him stay in the home of his father, Tomohiko Amada, a famous, now-senile painter whose difficult secret from 1930s Vienna unfurls over the course of the book. Once situated on the quiet, mysterious mountainside outside Odawara, the narrator begins teaching painting classes and finds a hidden, violent painting of Amada s in the attic called Killing Commendatore, an allegorical adaptation of Don Giovanni. He begins two affairs one with an older woman who sparks the novel whenever she appears and is commissioned by the enigmatic Mr. Menshiki to paint his portrait. Menshiki is preoccupied with a 13-year-old girl named Mariye an intriguing character, but one whom the book has an unfortunate tendency to sexualize. At night, the narrator is haunted by a ringing bell coming from a covered pit near his house. This eventually leads him to a magical realm that includes impish physical manifestations of ideas and metaphors. His discovery provokes a pivotal, satisfying moment in his artistic development on the way to a protracted, mystic denouement. The story never rushes, relishing digressions into Bruce Springsteen, the simple pleasures of freshly cooked fish, and the way artists sketch. As the narrator uncovers his talents, the reading experience becomes more propulsive. Murakami s sense of humor helps balance the otherworldly and the prosaic, making this a consistently rewarding novel. 250,000-copy announced first printing.
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Amazing from cover to cover.
How to become an idea
I just adore Murakami’s ability to trap the reader within the story and then the feeling of being an observer of the events. Yet again his prose creates visualisations so that I become, perhaps, an Idea. Thoroughly, thoroughly recommended, even more so if you are a Murakami fan.
Interesting but seemingly a re-hash
I enjoy Murakami, having read all of his fiction. And I think that’s the problem I have with this one—you can glean artifacts of his prior books. I had flashbacks to several prior works while reading this, particularly the underground travels (“Hardboiled...”), the pit (“Wind-Up...”) and even Amada’s nursing home view of the ocean (was it “Kafka...”?). And is this the first time that the ending is a nice, neat tie-up of all the plot lines? Almost like this one got mailed in.