Books

Killing Commendatore

Haruki Murakami's novel explores questions about trauma, art and the creative process, while navigating between the known world and a complex underworld.

Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen and Philip Gabriel

An unnamed thirty-something portrait painter, abandoned by his wife, becomes caretaker of the home of an aging famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When the younger man discovers an unknown painting in the attic, entitled "Killing Commendatore" — a painting that takes its cues from Mozart's opera Don Giovanni — he also discovers clues about Amada, his family and their involvement in a violent and failed plot to kill a Nazi leader in Vienna. As the painter slowly learns the truth, he is equally consumed by the story of a wealthy and mysterious neighbour, Menshiki, in what is, according to the author, a clear homage to The Great Gatsby.

The painter becomes obsessed with Menshiki's doomed love affair, the young girl who might be his child and a stone-lined underground space in the nearby woods where Buddhist priests were once buried alive. This pit becomes a portal into another world, a surreal place where the figures from "Killing Commendatore" take form to guide our narrator on an epic journey. Ambitious and haunting, tactile and surreal, preoccupied with questions about trauma, art and the creative process, Killing Commendatore moves between the known world and a complex underworld. (From Doubleday Canada)

From the book

From May until early the following year, I lived on top of a mountain near the entrance to a narrow valley. Deep in the valley it rained constantly in the summer, but outside the valley it was unusually sunny. This was due to the southwest wind that blew off the ocean. Moist clouds carried by the wind entered the valley, bringing rain as they made their way up the slopes. The house was built right on the boundary line, so often it would be sunny out in front while heavy rain fell in back. At first I found this disconcerting, but as I got used to it, it came to seem natural.

Low patches of clouds hung over the surrounding mountains. When the wind blew, these cloud fragments, like some wandering spirits from the past, drifted uncertainly along the surface of the mountains, as if in search of lost memories. The pure white rain, like fine snow, silently swirled around on the wind. Since the wind rarely let up, I could even get by in the summer without air conditioning.


From Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami ©2018. Published by Doubleday Canada.

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