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Familiar tropes but not much plot in Haruki Murakami's 'Killing Commendatore'

by Claire Williamson

Staff Writer

The English translation of Haruki Murakami’s 14th novel, “Killing Commendatore,” hit bookshelves in October 2018 and, at over 700 pages, it is a veritable brick. And, perhaps due to this massive length, one would be hard-pressed to give a coherent account of the plot.

Killing Commendatore, by Haruki Murakami, Translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen.
704 pages
PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, Fiction.

After his wife, Yuzu, divorces him, our 36-year-old (unnamed) narrator, a portrait artist of some repute, goes on a meandering journey of self-discovery, eventually taking up residence in the house of a famous painter, Tomohiko Amada. His discovery of a mysterious painting in the attic, Amada’s masterpiece, “Killing Commendatore,” is a catalyst (or is it?) for a series of events that tie the novel’s principal characters — a reclusive, wealthy gentleman; an awkward 13-year-old; Amada; a 2-foot-high manifestation of “an Idea”; and the narrator — together.

There are plenty of Murakami-isms scattered throughout the text: a sense of urban ennui, vanishing and reappearing objects, jazz and classical music records, under-developed female characters, cringe-worthy sex scenes and portals to parallel worlds. Occasionally there are flashes of his trademark ability to bring a sense of wonder to the everyday dissatisfactions everyone has with their lives. But too often his prose is rambling and repetitive.

Die-hard Murakami fans might find something to enjoy in the writer’s trademark, albeit under-edited, style, but one gets the feeling Murakami has gotten too comfortable with his own tropes and needs to shake things up in future works.