Adrian Graham

Killing Commendatore book cover

Killing Commendatore

Murakami is a magpie in the way he absorbs influences and ideas from different places. There are Western influences, and in Killing Commendatore it’s The Great Gatsby, but the narrative tone, themes, even plot devices that Murakami uses recall the Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata (loneliness, alienation, lost love, melancholy, suicide, confused desires, and so on).

Readers relate to the sensitivity and failings of his character’s in much the same way they do to Kawabata’s characters. Murakami’s narrative works through the information it provides about the central character, and the information it leaves out. This allows the reader to believe that they have worked things out for themselves using clues within the text. This makes the reader feel perceptive and intelligent, but it’s all a deliberate construct on Murakami’s part. The reader is following the path that he has set. And the thoughts and views that he deliberately obscures or misses out adds to that character’s mystery.

The reoccurring tropes in Murakami’s work feel like he’s read up on the Auteur Theory and perfected the motifs of the ‘Murakami novel’, obliquely referencing his own works and recycling scenes, character types, and locations. In Killing Commendatore we have a character whose name refers to colourlessness, and who dresses in white: colourlessness is a word straight out of the title of a previous novel. It’s said that writers only write one novel, and then they write it again and again. Murakami certainly seems to live up to this notion and appears to have perfected the ‘Murakami formulae’.

The downside of Killing Commendatore is that it feels too self-aware of the ‘Murakami formulae’, and the ‘Murakami world’. The real merges with the unreal. A character looses himself and then finds himself. Another downside is the tacked-on ending, which has a different tone to the rest of the novel.

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