Monday, August 5, 2019

Haruki Murakami - Killing Commendatore (Penguin, 2018) ****

Any Murakami is a must-read. And this for the simple reason that his writing itself is such a pleasure to read, almost regardless of the story. Like in his other novels, reality is not what it seems, and when a commercial portrait painter gets divorced, he finds temporary refuge in the mountain-top house of the father of one of his friends, a former painter, Tomohiko Amada, now in a home for the elderly.

In the house he finds a painting hidden in the attic, depicting a scene of Mozart's Don Giovanni opera, but then painted in medieval Japanese style. The painting is completely wrapped and the only painting by the former resident that was still in the house. Discovering and unwrapping the painting unleashes strange things, and magic starts pouring in a perfectly sound everyday environment. And even if there is no real horror in the story, the situations and events are at least uncanny and eery. There is no reason for the characters to fear for their life, yet things are troubling and bizarre, and because of their happenings, the interpretation of other people's intentions become tainted by them.

In Murakami's small geographic mountain-top environment that serves as the backdrop for this story, openings are to be found through time and space: first, before the second world war Tomohiko Amada, the owner of the house, was part of an assassination attempt on Hitler in Vienna, or was he not? Second, digging a strange opening in the garden leads to a world of darkness with its own inherent logic, where things can be their own and their opposite, where apparitions can be helpful and dangerous, where darkness sheds light on things ... or not.

Murakami repeats himself in a way. His recipe of a plot that explores the grey zone between reality and fantasy, between materiality and a much deeper subconscious, is presented by 'normal' individuals, with their almost bourgeois longings and desires, who are now forced to make choices, and all this written in very light and accessible style, often even a little naive.

I don't think he will ever equal the power of his "Wind-Up Bird Chronicle", but I can still recommend this novel. It's well written, with interesting characters, a great plot and a lot of questions. If nothing else, it's highly entertaining at worst.

See here the full list of my recent Murakami reviews.