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Art and literature are at the heart of Haruki Murakami's new novel, Killing Commendatore.

The master of literary excellence is back with a new book, Killing Commendatore. A story of a portrait artist in recluse, trying to rediscover his passion, after his world is turned upside down. His wife has left him, he wants to escape the past, and seeks refuge in the home of a famous painter, Tomohiko Amada, who owns a secluded house atop a mountain. 

It is there that he discovers a hidden painting in the attic, a canvas that opens up a palette of mysterious events, revealing hitherto dark family secrets. 

This painting was full of blood; two men were fighing with heavy ancient swords, in what seemed to be a duel. As far as he was aware, Tomohiko Amada had hardly ever painted a picture that was harsh and violent. "His paintings mostly summoned up feelings of nostalgia, gentleness and peace. Occasionally, they would take up historical events in his theme, but the people depicted in them, generally faded away into the overall composition." 

Because of the nature of the content, it's no wonder, that this particular painting, called Killing Commendatore, was unusual and peaked the interest of our storyteller.

Why would the famous painter keep this masterpiece hidden in the attic? That is the question posed. The answer lies somewhere at the intertwining of reality and fantasy. Paintings aren't just paintings. They play a big part in the pandemonium of moving the story, from the real to the mythical. 

There's a playful melange of confusion and disorder, the past leaps into the present; the secret painting holds a key to the future and unlocks past mysteries. Killing Commenddatore is not just a metaphor for Tomohiko Amada's painting, it is the portal the infuses the fantastic and the surreal into Haruki Murakami's novel. 

As the artist aims to remain secluded on the mountain, he is commissioned to paint a portrait. At first, the artist refuses, but when the stranger gives him a large amount and flexibility to paint how he wants, and as long as it takes, the artist begrudgingly agrees. 

If you have read Haruki Murakami before, you know that his books have incredible depth and inspire thinking that goes beyond merely a fictional narrative designed to sweep you off your feet. When you partake in reading, the stories take you along on a spiritual adventure replete with lessons of other worlds and far-fetching ideas. It's up to the reader to take away, to reflect, to absorb. The narration is unlike any other; slow, calculated, a reflective philosophical journey. 

In Killing Commendatore, there is a sequence of unusual events that follow the discovery of the painting in the attic. One involves the mysterious appearance of a bell, clanging loudly in the middle of the night. The question that follows, is whether this is the same bell that appears in the eponymous painting? At first blush that makes no sense.

The artist is awakened from his sleep with the distinct sound of the bell and describes it with precise clarity. "In the silence of the woods, it felt like I could hear a passage of time." This ringing of the bells happens time after time, eventually forcing the narrator to investigate it's origin. 

An underlying theme in the narrative is time. "One person leaves, another appears. A thought flits away and another takes its place." We know that time is never at a standstill, but Haruki Murakami knows how to draw out the passage of time, in slow, insightful pages, that fill you with wisdom. 

Haruki Murakami is known for his meandering ramblings that magically find themselves back to the topic at hand. When you speak of the term "ramblings" you would often think that it's confusing to follow, but with Murakami, that is hardly the case. Each word, each sentence makes you think. It's like having a long conversation with a friend, a philosophical debate of sorts. And after reading each one of his books, you feel a little bit the wiser, a little more worldly, and definitely leave with a better understanding of the human psyche.

On a personal note, I was sheepishly entertained by Murakami's foray into the modern, with references to brands that I have had a professional connection with, like Jaguar

"He got out of the car, closed the door (which made that special pleasant thunk expensive car doors make when you casually shut them), didn't lock it but put the key in his trouser pocket."

And, comparing the car to his marriage...

'"It was great as long as things were going well," I said. Just like an old-model Jaguar. A wonderful ride until the problem starts.'

Haruki Murakami's two other books we reviewed include, The Strange Library and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.

Killing Commendatore is a 681-page tome of literary genius, and I guarantee that you will reach each page with intellectual curiosity. 


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Blog Post by Shilpa Raikar, who believes in the power of storytelling to connect readers, and strives for diversity and inclusivity. 

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami is published by Doubleday Canada. Copy provided by Penguin Random House Canada.





Review by @SukasaReads (a division of @SukasaStyle)

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