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What a Murakami Novel Does to the Soul

What a Murakami Novel Does to the Soul

“There are some things that can’t be explained in this life,” Menshiki went on, “and some others that probably shouldn’t be explained. Especially when putting them into words ignores what is most crucial.”
                                        —Haruki Murakami, Killing Commendatore

Killing Commendatore revolves around a portrait artist who begins the inception of a supernatural cycle, giving rise to mysterious things and alongside his resolve to seek the best expression for himself where he feels both liberty and comfort, rather strangling limitations of, or a destitute lack of passion. There are subplots that revolve around a strange eccentric man who lives in a mansion.

It was released in Japan on February 24, 2017, and on October 9, 2018, in the US and UK. I am conflicted, while there are novels by Murakami that have unanswered mysteries in them, rather diligently constructed— one might admit they almost intertwine you in a reality of their own, the mysteries in this book might steal the spotlight. Though most of them have been answered, but few of them remain as they are. While there is no condition or parameters set to on figuring it out by our own, a pent-up sense of misdirection. The novel is split into two volumes: The Idea Made Visible and The Shifting Metaphor. The story begins with an unsettling prologue that intermittently lingers in the back of your mind as you wade deeper into the story. The strangeness of the prologue prods you forth with the awareness that no matter how normal the narrative feels right now; things will most certainly capsize. The signature surrealism of Murakami will leap at you, any page now. The final 200 pages are packed with details and action that unpacks the bizarre tangents, encompasses you all of a sudden when you try to wrap your head around it.

Upon discovery of a previously unseen painting, found wrapped in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. What throws you off is that the artist has a vividly sharp tendency to remember the tiniest of details, to pick up on the trails of the unsaid, but somehow, he fails to notice his own wife.

He ends up living in the remote house of his friend’s father, as a caretaker and a resident. Upon hearing an owl hooting in the attic, he discovers by accident, an unknown painting. Meanwhile, a mysterious wealthy neighbor upon inspecting his various portraits offers him a very large sum of money to paint his portrait, which he eventually agrees to do, and his ambiguous past is revealed patiently. He ends up creating a portrait unlike anything he has done before; he finds it alluring and something he never wanted to pursue before but was now enveloped to create more of such art.

Haruki Murakami expands the breadth of his literary nuance and intrigue in Killing Commendatore. There’s no simple way to express what a Murakami novel does to the soul. I devoured the story, the writing and the gratification that comes with turning the last page and knowing that every single page was worth it. In fact, I was wishing for it to be longer. There were no wasted words, and somehow despite its length and spiralling trail, the craftsman seemed to be in complete control of the story from the very first page.

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Music has been Murakami’s speciality, most of his books fall along the sidelines with Jazz and other forms of classical music that fill up the most critical spaces in his books. However, even then the book doesn’t deeply influence an inkling to the frigid resonance of the characters. While the story isn’t a mediocre one, the idea of worlds transcending each other seems a bit of stretch. Murakami’s style in this book is a new discovery, an open-ended mouth of a cave that goes deeper as you walk inside it. There are no depths to it but an abysmal senselessness surrounds you, sometimes you’ll find yourself aligned with the story, but there will also be times where it’ll seem another book set in the heart of it. It is an interesting way of storytelling; I’d recommend it if you are able to accept that fantasy realm unquestionably and look deeper in the sea than the surface of it.

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This Review was published in the February 2020 print issue of The Mountain Ink.

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