Review of Haruki Murakami’s new novel, Killing Commendatore.
“But at three o’ clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure doesn’t work — and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’ clock in the morning, day after day. At that hour the tendency is to refuse to face things as long as possible by retreating into an infantile dream — but one is continually startled out of this by various contacts with the world. One meets these occasions as quickly and carelessly as possible and retires once more back into the dream, hoping that things will adjust themselves by some great material or spiritual bonanza. But as the withdrawal persists there is less and less chance of the bonanza — one is not waiting for the fade-out of a single sorrow, but rather being an unwilling witness of an execution, the disintegration of one’s own personality.” –Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up” (1936)
In Killing Commendatore, the sprawling new novel by Haruki Murakami, the dark night of the soul which confronts Murakami’s nameless protagonist is met with a sort of bewildered impassivity, and resigned stoicism — qualities that have often factored into the emotional color schemes of Murakami’s “leading men.” In this case, the man is a thirty-six-year old portrait painter, who is blindsided by his wife’s decision to leave him. Aligning itself with this unexpected upheaval, is the realization and fact that his deeper artistic passions, the true signature of his soul-fire, have gone away, or settled into the quasi-comfortable numbness which has colonized many areas of his life. “I hadn’t become that sort of artist, or that type of person because I’d wanted to. Carried along by circumstances, I’d given up doing paintings for myself. I’d married and needed to make stable income, but that wasn’t the only reason. Honestly, I’d already lost the desire to paint for myself. I might have been using marriage as an excuse. I wasn’t young anymore, and something—like a flame burning inside me—was steadily fading away. The feeling of that flame warming me from within was receding even further.”
Originally from Brooklyn, NY, writer, poet, spoken word performer, and playwright, John Biscello now lives in Taos, New Mexico. He is the author of three novels: Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale, Raking the Dust, and Nocturne Variations, and a collection of stories, Freeze Tag.
His fiction and poetry has appeared in: Art Times, nthposition, The Wanderlust Review, Ophelia Street, Caper, Polyphony, Dilate, Militant Roger, Chokecherries, Farmhouse, BENT, The 555 Collective, Instigator, Brass Sopaipilla, The Iconoclast, Adobe Walls, Kansas City Voices, and the Tishman Review. His blog--Notes of an Urban Stray--can be read at johnbiscello.blogspot.com. Broken Land, a Brooklyn Tale was named Underground Book Reviews 2014 Book of the Year.