...immersive, repetitive, big-hearted ... As is often the case in Murakami’s fiction, a plot of relative simplicity ... This stuff is very Murakami. Killing Commendatore repeats almost exactly, for example, the descent through a well to a magical world that occurs in his earlier novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle ... Killing Commendatore gets the balance right ... In long, powerful passages, Murakami describes painting with the intensity of what seems like just-concealed autobiography.
A chilling and creepy prologue...establishes a hallucinatory mood. Harbingers of disaster mount. The tone is detached, wry, a blend of whimsy and profundity, matter-of-fact reporting and dreamy meditation. And many of the familiar Murakami preoccupations are present: a middle-aged male protagonist adrift and haunted by trauma and lost love, vinyl records, lonely men yearning for connection and transcendence, existential musings, talking creatures ... These delicate, amorphous, even insubstantial materials of identity provide a richly tenuous ground for Murakami’s obsessive inversions ...
In this book, however, Murakami seems to have lost a bit of his conjuror’s dexterity. Those ineffable effects, relying on sophisticated and probably instinctual balances of one invisible force against another, fail when things become unsteady, when the conductor falls a fraction behind the beat. At times the book reads like a literature graduate student’s fever dream. Other sections feel like a history textbook. The counterpoise of humor and poignancy so crucial to Murakami’s other works feels awkward. Halfway through, the plot runs out of steam and invention ... Killing Commendatore’ seems a hanging curveball, among the many darting sliders and knuckleballs of Murakami’s previous works.
The novel offers some promising mysteries ... As historical secrets and hauntings begin to pile on top of one another, one has the sense of a writer throwing a lot of ideas against a wall in the hope that something will stick. The plot is full of melodramatic bustle, but its wheels spin without gaining much traction ... In Killing Commendatore, the narrator’s dreaminess mainly feels unfocused, and a story that might have been engaging at 300 or 400 pages is drawn out to almost 700 ... Killing Commendatore is a baggy monster, a disappointment from a writer who has made much better work.
...a sprawling, surreal Gatsby for the information age ... Killing Commendatore strips out all the bling-bling parties but retains the kernel of the tragic story about a lonely dreamer ... The result is an exhausting epic that is at once more absorbing than it deserves to be and less profound than the author intended ... A purer homage to Gatsby would have been far more compelling, but Murakami likes to break his stories off at a crucial point. He scatters ideas and references like windblown seeds. You never know which narrative turn he will take next and you suspect he doesn’t either.
The view changes so often it’s hard not to feel turned around. Sometimes, reassuringly, Killing Commendatore runs across ground the author has mapped out before ... As ever, Murakami is brilliant at folding the humdrum alongside the supernatural; finding the magic that’s nested in life’s quotidian details. Yet on this occasion he allows his disparate elements to spin out too widely, to the point where they begin to appear only tenuously connected ... Killing Commendatore, [Murakami's] 14th novel, feels almost like a debut ... [Murakami's] pace remains easy and unhurried. His prose is warm, conversational and studded with quiet profundities. He’s eminently good company; that most precious of qualities that we look for in an author. We trust him to get us entertainingly lost, just as we trust that he’ll eventually get us home.
Typically wild stuff from Murakami, but the impression one is likely to get upon reading Killing Commendatore is how dated some of it feels. Every female character is presented as a sexual object. And other touches feel equally old-fashioned, from the Balzacian tendency to describe in detail the contents of rooms to lengthy accounts of the dishes the narrator cooks and the music he listens to. Digressions in fiction can be fun, but Murakami digresses on the same subjects over and over ... If Murakami is covering well-trodden ground, he is as masterful as ever at building an intricate narrative and keeping his audience in suspense. Killing Commendatore is both a testament to the transformational power of art and a cautionary tale on the dangers of exploration.
With baffling disappearances and reappearances, impregnation through dreams, and a ferryman without a face crossing a river of metaphors, the Japanese novelist’s latest tome, Killing Commendatore, seamlessly rendered into English by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen, makes strange with the best of his work ... All of this brings the story to the edge of a deeper and more interesting abyss, but unfortunately Murakami pulls back: these episodes are briefly summarized rather than brought to life ... A story of love and betrayal that should resonate throughout the novel terminates in a shrug. For all the fantastic sound and fury, nothing much has changed by its finish; Killing Commendatore is richly imagined but ultimately rather harmless.
If quest were the core of the novel, the novel would be magnificent. But Killing Commendatore is untidy and sprawling ... Yet Killing Commendatore’s great failure is its treatment of women ... These scenes are grotesque to the point of parody, but parody doesn’t seem to be Murakami’s purpose ... The portraitist’s paintings are more engaging in this book than any woman who scratches her way into the text. The paintings’ grasp of meaning and personality, possibility and danger, launches half-dried canvases into the world as powerful, autonomous entities. The book is less successful than any of the paintings in it. Where the paintings lurk unfinished and revealing, Killing Commendatore is over-written and obtuse. Murakami has written far better books than this one.
Murakami’s attempt to explore the artistic process, unfortunately, lacks insight. Sometimes the narrator can produce; other times he cannot. That’s all there really is in Killing Commendatore ... If the point of Killing Commendatore is that artists and their processes are often utterly boring, then it is indeed a success, though it’d have been more effective and interesting to come out and say that ... Murakami does reach for the magical or otherwise unreal ... These sections are undercut, however, by the awful writing that populates them ... Despite these lows, Murakami is at his worst when he is trying to write about women ... This limited ability to write about women as though they are also people is a black spot on this book and Murakami’s career writ large.
...the latest evasive, magical, utterly unique novel by Murakami ... seamlessly translated ... At over 700-plus pages, it’s (thankfully) another intriguing, time-challenging tome you can’t wait to finish ... As entertainingly evasive as always, Murakami allows for some mysteries to be solved, while others remain in limbo. Avoiding absolutes, his playful slyness pops up throughout.
Like all of Haruki Murakami’s stories, Killing Commendatore is vast, ambitious and composed of seemingly disparate layers that somehow all find a way to link together ... it’s another brilliant journey through the mind of one of our greatest living storytellers ... One of Murakami’s most effective techniques is his economy of language, which creates a constant juxtaposition of extraordinary events and deceptively simple, unhurried prose ... a joyously unpredictable novel, cracking itself open one piece at a time like an ancient puzzle box, and Murakami’s careful, masterful style assures the reader that it’s worthwhile to get happily lost inside.
In Murakami’s Killing Commendatore (translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen), another masterpiece as good as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994–’95) and 1Q84 (2009–’10), both the characters and the reader traverse such magnificent subterranean chambers ... It’s not that these characters are fatalists. And they’re certainly not putting things in God’s hands or anything like that. Rather, Murakami is having them express the truth that despite how rational and stable we may be, our lives are actually out of our control ... By writing about metaphors and ideas, by ringing bells underground and animating two-foot-tall men, by having the desperate desires of others intrude on the simplest of plans and a whole lot else, Murakami is reminding us that the world is more enchanted than we might think. And an enchanted world is a wonderful place to live.
And therein lies the fault of this big, feral beast of a book: the in-world mythology of magic realism is so bizarre, so consistently inconsistent, it distances reader from character(s), rendering them all more like the Commendatore himself: little more than 'ideas', sample people, manifest in the borrowed forms of figures from other places, other stories, other Wiki pages ... despite its length, its multi layers, its complexity, Killing Commendatore often feels lazy, like a painting-by-numbers version of an Old Master done in crayons. However, it is the Crayola effect that makes this work original – childlike in its telling, but grand in the big, loud, colourful marks it makes. Too contrived in its madness, too garish and long, the words spill out over the pages like the clutter of a hoarder in therapy. But it’s one hell of a session. One hell of a tale.
The leisurely, genially bizarre novel Killing Commendatore is the Japanese author’s latest excursion through the looking glass, and fans worldwide will be familiar with the attributes of the adventure. Does it center on a taciturn everyman who is yanked from his ordinary life and impelled on a mystical quest through an alternate realm? Of course. Does the hero encounter a series of mysterious strangers with dubious motives? Natch. Are there tiny paranormal beings in this world? You bet ... (Murakami) builds his self-contained world deliberately and faithfully, developing intrigue and suspense and even taking care to give each chapter a cliffhanger ending as in an old-fashioned serialized novel. Killing Commendatore seems like sheer silliness from a distance, but when you’re under Mr. Murakami’s trance you’re likely to keep flipping the pages.
More often than not, the reader will read the end of one chapter only to have lines repeated at the start of the next chapter, like a TV procedural closing one scene with as line of dialogue, fading to commercial, and starting with the same scene once the new 'chapter' begins. Additionally, some of the narrative is first year creative writing clumsy ... The reader might find it difficult to forgive the clumsy and thick narrative style. Better (as always with Murakami) are the reflections on painting, on process ... The problem with Killing Commendatore is that Murakami starts not only with the assumption that we'll have unlimited patience, but also that time is never of the essence. This is a typically thick Murakami novel, but the Bad Sex element is problematic and the unwillingness to tame the trademark Murakami fantasy in favor of more poetic realism is frustrating. The stale repetitive transitions can only suggest that a series of carefully rendered graphic novel adaptations will be a better way to adapt this story and trim some of the more unfortunate plot elements.
... often fascinating if occasionally confounding ... The novel actually develops rather slowly; at one point, the titular painting vanishes from the narrative for 100 pages. And at nearly 700 pages total (in Japan, it was originally published in two volumes), Killing Commendatore can test a reader’s patience. But a remarkably dense web of subplots and themes keeps you reading in chapters where not much happens ... If nothing else, [the book is] a lengthy if ultimately satisfying meditation on how a painted picture can seize hold of the imagination.
Murakami (1Q84) crafts notoriously windy novels, but he’s an equally gifted short-story writer. That quality is evident in Commendatore ... Murakami calls Commendatore his homage to The Great Gatsby, and the comparisons are obvious. Yet he aligns with F. Scott Fitzgerald in subtler, deeper ways, too — in the searching quality of the prose. The book’s missteps, from painfully dry historical analysis to some offensive treatment of the female characters, undermine its affecting melancholy ... Murakami executes his mission with metatextual ingenuity ... B+.
Killing Commendatore may be the most Murakami of the Murakami novels, and whether or not you'll like it will probably depend on whether or not this is the kind of thing you like ... It's so much fun that it's easy to get sucked along.
Murakami addicts love this slow-burn storytelling, which has (as Menshiki says of his beloved Jag) 'a charm all its own'. Newcomers, however, may initially feel bemused ... Murakami’s reality has many sides; some plain, some fancy. Translators Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen capture every colour on this mind-altering palette ... Murakami’s 'Land of Metaphor' remains a country where wonders never cease.
Those who are fortunate enough to see their way through to the end of this beguiling 700-page work will be rewarded with this and dozens of other indelible images the book plants in your brain ... Killing Commendatore is an unforgettable read that is sure to rack up accolades and awards.
While [the book's plot] may seem like an unmanageably bewildering tangle, Murakami’s first-person prose has a tabulating thoroughness that brings a feeling of calm and control ... Murakami often borrows the detective story convention of combing for clues but strips it of its explanatory role, so that the fine-grained noticing becomes a styleless, camera-like neutrality that forms the quotidian wallpaper against which intrusions of the absurd flare up ... Mostly, though, Killing Commendatore centers on the (not at all apolitical) idea of the sacred importance of imaginative freedom ... To an uncharitably skeptical reader, [Murakami's style] might seem formulaic, tilting over into the too-cute, or becoming a version of what James Wood once called 'hysterical realism' ... To his credit, Murakami... has in the process invented an aggregate fictional world of fierce integrity that isn’t like anything else.
The story requires its players to work their ways through mazes and moments of history that some would rather forget—including, here, the destruction of Nanjing during World War II. Art, ideas, and history are one thing, but impregnation via metempsychosis is quite another; even by Murakami’s standards, that part of this constantly challenging storyline requires heroic suspension of disbelief on the reader’s part. Altogether bizarre—and pleasingly beguiling, if demanding. Not the book for readers new to Murakami but likely to satisfy longtime fans.
...a meticulous yet gripping novel whose escalating surreal tone complements the author’s tight focus on the domestic and the mundane ... The story never rushes, relishing digressions into Bruce Springsteen, the simple pleasures of freshly cooked fish, and the way artists sketch. As the narrator uncovers his talents, the reading experience becomes more propulsive. Murakami’s sense of humor helps balance the otherworldly and the prosaic, making this a consistently rewarding novel.
And, yet, Forster’s plea for the primacy of human relationships remains central to Murakami’s work, even if, as happens here, those connections can sometimes be terrifying as well as life-sustaining ... Murakami’s multifaceted genius is expressed not only through his wide-ranging imagination but, even more important, through his ability to ground those imaginative flights in the bedrock realism of human experience.