Haruki Murakami Discusses Parallel Realities in ‘Killing Commendatore’

Hey Bookstrs, good news here! The internationally distinguished author Haruki Murakami’s 2017 novel Killing Commendatore is going to say hi to all the English readers in this October!  Recently, an article titled “The Wind Cave,” an excerpt from Murakami’s novel, was published by The New Yorker, followed by an interview in which Murakami shared his inspirations, metaphors, reality, imagination, and his belief in parallel universes.


Though Murakami’s latest work Killing Commendatore has been declared “indecent” by Hong Kong censors (hey! the political intervention in literary composition is no doubt unwelcome!), Murakami is beloved by global readers, and has therefore been named as one of four finalists for the New Academy’s alternative prize for literature (responding to the cancellation of the Noble Prize in Literature due to the sexual misconduct scandal in the Swedish Academy). The right thing always needs no further explanation and Murakami’s contribution, no matter if his being censored or being almost-awarded, is clear and powerful. In Murakami’s literary world, there is always a negotiation between sun and shadow, and the parallel universes keep affecting the characters living on each side. Killing Commendatore, according to Murakami, is a piece of work in which, after a long time, he returns to the first person narrative, and he feels good about this perspective. 




Image via, and Vulture



In “The Wind Cave” the storyteller “I” speaks about the death of his younger sister twenty years ago and how the trauma lingers on his mind. The storyteller feels guilty and regretful about not taking care his twelve-year-old sister who suffered from a heart disease. There is one description that is very heartbreaking: when the sister’s delicate body is placed in a small-sized coffin, quietly and coldly, and is ready to be sent to the crematorium, the storyteller’s heart breaks:

I couldn’t stand to see her be cremated. When the coffin lid was shut and locked, I left the room. I didn’t help when my family ritually placed her bones inside an urn. I went out into the crematorium courtyard and cried soundlessly by myself. During her all too short life, I’d never once helped my little sister, a thought that hurt me deeply. 


This deeply-hurt feeling is the trauma that Murakami is trying to explore in his writing. In the interview with The New Yorker, Murakami shared his thought that:


There are three types of emotional wounds: those that heal quickly, those that take a long time to heal, and those that remain with you until you die. I think one of the major roles of fiction is to explore as deeply and in as much detail as possible the wounds that remain. Because those are the scars that, for better or for worse, define and shape a person’s life. And stories—effective stories, that is—can pinpoint where a wound lies, define its boundaries (often, the wounded person isn’t actually aware that it exists), and work to heal it.


The most dramatic part of the plot happens in a cave near Mount Fuji and it’s called The Wind Cave. Murakami confessed that he’s obsessed with caves. During his traveling around the world, he’s visited countless caves. In the story of “The Wind Cave,” the storyteller’s sister, before her death, once mentioned her thought that the characters in Alice in Wonderland are real, dwelling in another axis of the world, or simply, another universe. The themes of parallel realities and, in a certain sense, of boundary blurring between reality and “the other reality” are Murakami’s intentions of creating Killing Commendatore:



I ask myself the same question. When I’m writing novels, reality and unreality just naturally get mixed together. It’s not as if that was my plan and I’m following it as I write, but the more I try to write about reality in a realistic way, the more the unreal world invariably emerges. For me, a novel is like a party. Anybody who wants to join in can join in, and those who wish to leave can do so whenever they want. I think novels get their driving force from that sense of freedom.


My basic view of the world is that right next to the world we live in, the one we’re all familiar with, is a world we know nothing about, an unfamiliar world that exists concurrently with our own. The structure of that world, and its meaning, can’t be explained in words. But the fact is that it’s there, and sometimes we catch a glimpse of it, just by chance—like when a flash of lightning illuminates our surroundings for an instant.



Isn’t it amazing? I totally agree with Murakami’s thought about parallel realities not only because I’m a deep Murakami fan but also because of my belief in the fact that everyone occasionally experience the feeling that this world is unreal while the other is more approachable. No matter if it’s a deja vu, a daydream, or a mere illusion, this sense of entering into a Wonderland is originally the core in human being’s imagination. As Murakami keeps saying, the reason why Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is so “wonderful” because this self-satisfying territory is always welcome and making sense. Explanations are unneeded. 



I’m sure Killing Commendatore is an exceptional piece of work in terms of its multi-cultural blood. We all know that Murakami’s literary career has been nourished by so many Western classic authors, such as Lewis Caroll and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet, according to Murakami, Killing Commendatore is based on a traditional Japanese literary text called Tales of Spring Rain by Edo-period author Akinari Ueda. For a long time, Murakami said, he has been thinking about writing a novel regarding to this text. 



Now here he is. Killing Commendatore. A story about a middle-age painter who is abandoned by his wife, finds out his fascination with a mysterious artist’s painting, and decides to embark on a journey of searching himself and dealing with the haunted traumatic memories. The release date will be October 9th, 2018. Let’s get trapped in the Murakami magic again!



Suggested readings:




Featured Image Via and The New Yorker (Illustration By Bianca Bagnarelli)