When it comes to Japanese fiction, Haruki Murakami is the name that usually jumps out at me first. His surreal stories, which mix Japanese and Western themes together, can be as poignant as they are hilarious. So, when I came across his latest novel, Killing Commendatore, I was excited to dive into a new world of weird happenings and emotional characters. I’m pleased to say the book exceeded my expectations and delivered on everything fans have come to enjoy about a classic Murakami tale.
Surrealism at its finest
Killing Commendatore depicts the life of a portrait artist, who after becoming estranged from his wife, moves into the home of another artist called Tomohiko Amada. Settling into his new life, the artist discovers one of Amada’s paintings called Killing Commendatore. Fascinated by the painting, the artist delves into Amada’s past, learning of his life during WW2 and the lengths he went to create art that moved people in a certain way.
It’s not long before strange events start to happen, such as the appearance of the mysterious Mr Menshiki, or the ringing of a bell that can never be found. Soon, the artist finds himself caught up in a journey that involves a dangerous pit in the woods, a missing thirteen-year-old-girl and an underworld haunted by sinister ideas and metaphors. Murakami mashes all these disparate elements together and turns them into writing magic.
Loneliness, love and triumph
In Killing Commendatore, the surreal themes are balanced out by the relatability of Murakami’s characters, with each person suffering from some form of loneliness. For example, the protagonist pines for his wife, despite them no longer being together, while Menshiki is searching for something that money can’t buy.
The relationship between the artist and Menshiki is one of my favourite parts of the novel because both characters feel bound to each other by forces beyond their control. By the end of the story, the artist and Menshiki find what they’re looking for, demonstrating how everyone has their own method of overcoming loneliness.
The power of art is another theme that stands out, personified through the Killing Commendatore painting that takes on a life of its own. The artist is also forced to question the nature of his reality through the pictures he creates, likening them to dark emotions that can cause physical harm if they are allowed to run free in the world.
Throughout the novel, Murakami’s prose remains sharp and elegant. It’s as if he constructs a vivid painting that when admired up close, creates the same fascination that his protagonist feels when staring at Tomohiko Amada’s masterpiece.
Killing Commendatore is a story of loneliness, love and triumph that will please long-time Murakami fans and show new readers why he is one of the greatest authors in recent memory. Buy it now on Amazon.