Killing Commendatore : A Novel

by Haruki Murakami

Other authorsPhilip Gabriel (Translator.), Ted Goossen (Translator.)
Hardcover, 2018


Checked out
Due Jul 6, 2020



New York, NY : Knopf, 2018.


"The much-anticipated new novel from the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of 1Q84 and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Killing Commendatore is an epic tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art--as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby--and a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member jnwelch
"I was simply following ideas that sprang up naturally inside me, with no plan or goal. Like a child, not watching his step, chasing some unusual butterfly fluttering across a field. After adding this color to the canvas I set my palette and brush down, again sat down on the stool six feet away, and studied the painting straight on. This is indeed the right color, I decided. The kind of green found in a forest wet by rain. I nodded several times to myself. This was the kind of feeling toward a painting I hadn't experienced in years."

"Even the darkest, thickest cloud shines silver when viewed from above."

"Nothing is painted there yet, but it’s more than a simple blank space. Hidden on that white canvas is what must eventually emerge. As I look more closely, I discover various possibilities, which congeal into a perfect clue as to how to proceed. That’s the moment I really enjoy. The moment when existence and nonexistence coalesce."

In Murakami's wonderful new book, he takes us on an artist's journey while at the same time he explores various relationships and big ideas. A suggestion: whenever he mentioned a musical piece in the book, I found it and played it on Youtube. In Absolutely on Music, his dialogue with Seiji Ozawa, Murakami confirmed what a discerning ear he has, and what a knowledgeable layman he is. Fans will recall that he ran a jazz club in Tokyo before he became a writer. By following along musically in this book, I experienced a lot of music I'd not heard before. A highlight was Richard Strauss's Oboe Concerto, and even though I'm not an opera buff, I liked Der Rosenkavalier much more than I expected. He also got me back to listening to early Springsteen, something I haven't done for a while.

The story features an unnamed middle-aged man experiencing a crisis in his 6 year marriage, and eventually retreating to a famous artist's home in the mountains (the artist is declining in a hospital) . Our protagonist is a talented painter who's been making a living doing corporate portraits, but the change re-ignites his passion for unrestricted work. He finds a mysterious wrapped painting in the home, and hears a bell in the middle of the night sounding from near a shrine. The surreal events begin. Yes, there are cats, a hole like a well, a young girl who seems adrift, and other familiar Murakami elements. They're woven into a remarkably sure-handed story that has one of my favorite endings of any of his books.

One notable flaw, for me: his obsession with breasts continues, with much more than I needed about the 13 year old girl's longing for her flat chest to bloom. If the point was that she wished the protagonist would take a romantic interest in her, or her longing to be an adult, or whatever, it could've been conveyed with a lot less. But that's a small quibble.

I love what one reviewer had to say about his writing in this book: “Murakami dancing along ‘the inky blackness of the Path of Metaphor’ is like Fred Astaire dancing across a floor, then up the walls and onto the ceiling.”

He's a comfortable, confident guide who takes us places we never expected to go. Four and a half stars.
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
As ever, Murakami’s focus is on the things that fascinate him - interpersonal relationships, holes in the ground and the search for self. This time the magical realism isn’t just a passing plot point that may or may not just be in a character’s mind – this time it’s an integral part of the story. And what a story! Like the main character one finds oneself getting lost in amongst the many absurdities. And, one must give up on trying to obtain any real sense of completion because there are any number of loose ends. I suspect, as with many of his novels, folks will either eat it up or dump it in frustration. [in progress]… (more)
LibraryThing member pgmcc
When I read a book by Murakami I feel transported into another dimension. He achieves this with the simplest of language and a talent for bending the boundaries between the real and unreal worlds. Supernatural elements appear in all the Murakami books I have read and enjoyed, but his stories are not about the supernatural. He uses these elements, some of which are ideas and tropes from Japanese folklore, to create a context and framework to explore the emotions and thoughts of people going through significant changes in their lives. Killing Commendatore is no different. Amongst the life changes dealt with in this novel we find marital breakup, people questioning their whole purpose in life, the on-set of puberty, past secrets, lost loves, art, and classical music. Murakami deals with all these and does it in a smooth and humane fashion while leading his readers through a labyrinth of mystery and intrigue.

Characterisation and character development are a hallmark of his works and it is not just the development of the protagonist that is portrayed but that of every character in the story. To use the terminology and definitions of John Yorke in his explanation of how stories work, Into the Woods, Killing Commendatore is a three dimensional story.

Murakami's work will not be everyone's cup of tea. I believe either people like Murakami or they do not. If you do then you will like this novel.
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LibraryThing member kakadoo202
Bizarre. Creative. Mysterious. Interesting. Twists.
LibraryThing member buttsy1
Haruki Murakami has used a parallel realm as a device in many of his novels. In ‘1Q84’ and ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ it added a magical and intriguing element to the story. But for this reader, ‘Killing Commendatore’ became confusing and difficult to follow as the story unfolded.

The description of the story-teller’s marriage breakdown is told in a beautifully bleak way; the mystery and questions around Menshiki are hinted at; the ambiguous relationship with Mariye is left powerfully unexplored; the mystery and tension that build around the discovery of the shrine, the pit and the bell is constructed magnificently. Most of this book is superbly written in Murakami’s inimitable style, but the journey into the other realm, and the connections that I must have simply missed…

I also found the obsession with a 13 year old girl’s breasts to be somewhat disconcerting.

‘Killing Commendatore’ is not my favorite Muarakami novel, but the quality of the writing stands with any other modern novelist’s work.
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LibraryThing member rongeigle
Just finished reading this impressive book, Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami. I will now need about as much time to think about what it's all about. This shouldn't take more than, oh, two or three months.

A small note: One thing I love about Murakami (which drives some people absolutely nuts) is his moment-to-moment narrative of the main character's activities: boiling water for tea, going to the fridge for cold cuts, settling into a thick couch, listening to Strauss' Rosenkavalier, picking out a shirt. Often inconsequential, these moments are nevertheless also often vital to his themes, not the least of which is the importance of each tiny moment of time, the present moment, the quantum world of meaning within each drop--of course, a Buddhist principal contrary to the vast rush of the West forward and to the future.

Tim Lott wrote an excellent essay in Aeon in September, 2012, which captures this notion: "The emphasis on the present moment is perhaps Zen’s most distinctive characteristic. In our Western relationship with time, in which we compulsively pick over the past in order to learn lessons from it and then project into a hypothetical future in which those lessons can be applied, the present moment has been compressed to a tiny sliver on the clock face between a vast past and an infinite future. Zen, more than anything else, is about reclaiming and expanding the present moment."

That's not to say that Murakami doesn't review the past, especially the damages from World War II, or peer into the future. It's just that so much of his work sends us inward, to the internal beating of our souls, ushered there in part by attention to the nano-moments of time. Now, back to figuring out what Murakami had in mind in Killing Commendatore.
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LibraryThing member tronella
Look, I almost loved this but I just don't want to read these endless discussions about teenage girls' breasts, Murakami.
LibraryThing member jakebornheimer
[Three stars is generous here, it's probably closer to 5/10. May post some thoughts later.]
LibraryThing member deborahk
In the end, nothing happened. He never even got a divorce and we never learned his name. But it was a wild ride.
LibraryThing member Ken-Me-Old-Mate
I’ve always thought that Haruki Murakami was very brave. I say this because he starts his stories normally enough then somewhere along the line he suddenly veers off into a kind of surreal fantasy. And yet, he always seems to not just pull it off, but magnificently so into the bargain.

Never having been to Japan I am never sure if it’s him that’s weird or the Japanese. I’ve talked to people that have been there and most of them are not sure either.

I think that watching a Japanese TV game show called “Masturbation Karaoke” didn’t help me much either in coming to an understanding about it.

In the TV show, the contestants, men, were masturbated by the hostesses to a popular song and the men had to not just sing the words whilst being wanked but ejaculate in time with the end of the song. All that stood between the masturbation and the camera was a strategically placed board that hid the female hands but showed the ejaculate splashing on the floor.

I was not only stunned by the fact that this was a TV game show but as much by the fact that some men actually managed to pull it off, if you’ll forgive the expression.

I have seen other equally bizarre Japanese TV shows and that kinda makes up the context for me when reading any Japanese novel.

Having read quite a few Japanese novels by various authors I am constantly stunned by the cultural differences to the point where I wonder how much I miss by not understanding their “weirdness”.

Which brings me back to Killing Comendatore. To say that this is a weird story is an understatement but that does nothing to detract from the sheer scope of this book. I like how the main parts of the story are all resolved by the end of the book and aslo how much is left unresolved. The woman in the port town, the man in the Subaru etc etc.

I can say without any doubt that I enjoyed this book in so many ways and some I suspect that we do not have words for in English.

Everyone now knows about "hygge" but there are several Japanese emotions for which we do not just lack words but also lack the concept. Sure you can say that “hygge” is like but that is like saying “a cat is like a dog” which is true to about the same level.

Example: That sort of painful, sort of bittersweet, sort of wistful feeling you get looking out the window or driving at night or listening to a far-off train whistle? There's an *exact* word for that in Japanese.

(If you are interested in that idea of emotions or you think you have a good handle on emotions then you really should read “The History of Human Emotions by Tiffany Watt Smith)

So there you go, another voyage into the land of weirdness but a voyage on the ship of a master mariner.
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LibraryThing member vpfluke
This was an engrossing novel even if long with 64 chapters. An unnamed narrator, a portrait painter in Tokyo decides to retreat to a mountain home in the process of his wife divorcing him. His painting was systematic, but rewarding enough to provide an adequate income. At his mountain home, which had been the home a fairly famous painter, he find a painting wrapped up, the only art work left behind. The novel is an unraveling of the symbolic story of this painting, Killing Commendatore. A somewhat distant neighborhoods is encountered, Water Menshiki, who is watching with a high-powered hs home and another abode. Classical music is a motif in the story, particularly Richard Strauss's opera, Der Rosenkavalier. The narrator does a painting of Menshiki and another one of his possible daughter (who lives in the other abode). Two other paintings are done in a burst of uncontrolled energy. An underground hole is found which has a bell that rings in the middle of the night. At the end of the love the resolution is partial.… (more)
LibraryThing member Bici47
I tried to read this book several times on different occasions and I just couldn't get into it. There was a time when I would finish reading a book, even if I didn't enjoy it, but my therapist has kicked my butt about being a people pleaser, so I decided I wasn't going to finish it. I gave it to a flight attendant who said she was a reader and said that she was excited because she'd heard about it but hadn't read it.… (more)
LibraryThing member sogamonk
could not get into it.
I love Murakami's writing. Enjoyed all his other books.
Found this one, long, repetitious, somewhat humorous, but with no point really
A shame.
LibraryThing member modioperandi
With Killing Commendatore Murakami has out Murakamied himself. It is so weird. I think it is even stranger and more beautiful than 1Q84, which I hold as my favorite Murakami novel, but Killing Commendatore takes the increasing weirdness of his stories and novels to a whole other level. Killing is about an unnamed 36-year-old portrait artist living in Tokyo. When his wife, Yuzu, suddenly wants a divorce and admits she’s been seeing someone else, he clears his schedule and goes on a month-long road trip to Hokkaido and Tohoku before settling in a house on the top of a mountain in rural Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture, where he plans to paint for himself for the first time in years rather than taking portrait work.

Its as wildly published a homage to the Great Gatsby. The book explores themes of loss and melancholy and also artistic motivations and what it means to live a life of creation to make things as a way of being in the world. It really feels like Murakami is speaking for himself through some of the longer parts of the novel. The creation of art affects real life and real life affects the creation of art. The characters all serve this purpose and at times are two dimensional but that feels very much like a choice and not an oversight. The cast of characters come together, as is usual for Murakami, is strange weird and emotionally, at least for this reader, affecting ways. The long history of the WW2 veteran are especially confounding in the best way possible. This is a long read and Murakim sets out to tell you all of the things that he can and boy does he tell you dear reader all of the things. Its good and tiring and engaging.

In short it is one of best novels to read during this time of quarantine. I read this book when it came out in english but am considering taking a deep dive again as I take a dive into my own inner space Killing seems like a good fun-house mirror from which to observe myself and the world at large.
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LibraryThing member amareshjoshi
A very strange book. The book’s narrator is a portrait painter his wife suddenly announces she wants a divorce. He leaves and rents a house in the mountains that once belonged to a famous old painter. He finds a hidden painting in the attic called “Killing Commendatore”. This sets off a set of strange supernatural events. The various characters ramble on about philosophy, existence, reality, etc. There is painting, sex, descriptions of clothes and whiskey brands. By the end of the book nothing is really resolved.

If you like Murakami’s style of writing you'll probably enjoy the book. If you are new to Murakami (or even if you are not) it will leave you puzzled and confused. I wouldn’t recommend it to others.
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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
Really loved this slow moving supernatural story about an artist, a recluse and a teenager. It's strange and otherworldly and was a tremendously satisfying read. I definitely need time to mull it over, but I want to read more Murakami in the mean time.



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