32 thoughts on “Killing Commendatore – Haruki Murakami

  1. 1

    The narrator is a 36 year old painter who gives up his serious abstract work for paid portraiture, only needing a few snapshots and an interview about a subject’s life, no protracted sitting. Fascinating house on top of a mountain, a house split by endemic weather fronts. Under patches of clouds. A canvas is a sort of ceiling, I wonder? He has a marital separation of nine months from his wife, although when they separated they thought it was forever. During that period, he has methodical sexual affairs as business like as his portraits, I guess. The women seem just as methodical until the affairs run their course. This has just scratched the fogged surface in a matter of a mere ten pages. There are over 670 pages in the book, you see. In fact we learn a lot more in these ten pages than what I have intimated above.

  2. 2


    “What I saw there was an exhausted thirty-six-year-old man in a shabby paint spattered sweater.”

    After reading that, I wondered whether the spattering on the pages’ edge was not blood as I originally assumed.


    In this chapter, I counted three subtle references to the moon, excluding the chapter’s title. The chapter tells, in its own business-like, yet engaging, way, of the backstory of the marital separation. And his taking his decrepit car over much of Japan, doing makeshift pencil sketches of people, but then returns to Tokyo, to take up portrait painting seriously again. Medelssohn’s Octet. ‘Way back when’ as refrain. Scrape of worn-out wipers. Hypnotised me.
    His wife, by the way, when he first met her reminded him of his twelve year old sister who had died. It was the eyes.

  3. I shall no longer itemise the plot developments, but only specific things that strike me…


    “Don’t want you ending up like THE SHINING.”

    …like the physical reflection in a mirror. Or the real self. Clinging to a piece of wood to prevent drowning.
    Living in the mountain house he is offered that once housed a painter, Amada, now in care elsewhere. elderly and demented, someone who once painted the book’s eponymous painting, I guess. The painting that I, and perhaps I alone, wonder whether it is trying to get out of the floating book by splashing through the wood’s sliced paper pages!

  4. 4

    “Our lives really do seem strange and mysterious when you look back on them. Filled with unbelievable bizarre coincidences and unpredictable, zigzagging developments. While they are unfolding, it’s hard to see anything weird about them, no matter how closely you pay attention to your surroundings.”

    I have learnt, after eleven years of the gestalt real-time reviewing process, to read books and their palimpsest of timelines with those thoughts in mind’s eye. Timelines, distant and near. Characters old and young, sometimes the same character viewing himself when younger or someone much older who becomes a new character to him in mind’s eye or researched. Both of them painters. An ancient era painted. The house opposite queried, but inferred potential hindsight might tell us about matters yet to be imparted. Not worrying what comes next until reaching what comes next. From pre-internet to preterite internet. Not that the latter has yet become relevant — if it ever does!

  5. 5

    “It was by total coincidence that I discovered the painting by Tomohiko Amada, the one with the unusual title, ‘Killing Commendatore’.”

    I have read this chapter since posting the above Facebook post. Painted by a now memory-less nonagenarian specialising in ancient Japanese art against more modernistic work, guarded, as it were, by a gray horned owl in the attic, depicting a long-faced man looking through a manhole cover at the bloody killing of a ‘knight commander’ in a duel by a thrusting Don Juan figure (or at least someone like the POTUS who thought he was such a figure?) — set against the past of famous Amada’s life in Vienna, during the second world war, with an armada of a land army in occupation?
    The only Amada painting in the house – but why that painting alone? Revealed as if peeling bandages off it, after it is fetched by our narrator from the attic. A painting with mixed effects. Intriguing, consuming, even alarming for today’s reader. As if, like the narrator with the painting he has just discovered, the book is meant just for ME!
    Modernities in interface with ancient eras.

    “Tomahiko Amada had ‘adapted’ the world of Mozart’s opera into the Asuka period.”

  6. Pingback: Killing Commendatore or Knight Commanders | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  7. 6


    “hit man”
    “Just like a reader might carefully copy down in a notebook each word and phrase he liked in a book.” – seeking “intent” in the painting as well as the book, I guess.
    Also he feels under ‘surveillance’ himself as a client seeks his last portrait, with proper sitting, tête-à-tête, it seems. More as a business expense than a work of art? But I must stop this resumption of summarising the plot, as I go through in real-time, as the world potentially erupts around me, by climate and trumpate.

  8. Pingback: By Climate and Trumpate | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

  9. 7

    Why that is so, and who the potential portrait painting sitter is, I’ll leave you to discover. Other than that he has ears like woodland mushrooms. Much of interest about the study of the face itself, any face, and the work of a portrait painter and the specifications discussed for this particular project. The possible blending of writer and painter. And the potential sitter’s white concrete house viewable across the valley like a liner. Yes, white house, as the crow flies.

    I am currently watching a production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni on YouTube. Been some years since I experienced it.

  10. 8 & 9

    “I heard a sound from the ceiling, so I climbed up during the day to check on it.”

    Seeking identity of a person on social media, and why even nobodies have footprints there, while the seemingly rich portrait-sitter — with shocking white hair from the colour-surrounded white-house across the valley — has no such footprints. 76551093-52DA-4E58-B7B0-4616AFCFF29A
    White is a colour in its own right? And the sitter’s name that means colour-blindness. Is the red splatter on the edges of this book’s to-be-read pages really red?
    Thoughts on ‘Archetypal’, and the synergy or (mis-)synchrony of Japanese and Western Art … of the sitter and the painter. ‘Exchanging fragments’. The need for transformation. The inscrutable difficulty in even sketching the sitter’s face.

    Cf the man on the ceiling today here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/man-on-the-ceiling-melanie-tem-and-steve-rasnic-tem/#comment-17822

  11. 10 & 11

    “Her developing breasts would never grow.”

    I think I have already mentioned the death of the narrator painter’s sister at age 12, and here we tellingly learn more of this backstory, the “ominous white flowers” in the coffin’s claustrophobia and her “white lace collar so white it looked unnatural.” Collar as colour? The later mound of stones and its mysteriously and accurately timed bell-ringing sound — a sound from within the mound as well as within the sudden surrounding silence — echoes such claustrophobia? And later with the painter speculating on the strange difficulty of managing the sketching of the portrait sitter’s face, his imagined sense of an organism or a direction of sight directed at the painter strangely reminds me of the earlier envisaged act of someone said to be performing on-line remote surgery upon a sick patient. The painter’s sister had heart problems before she died, I now recall.

  12. 05C0D655-9AD8-483E-AE65-D379CC8F643A 12, 13 & 14

    “He was so still he looked like a lifelike statue.”

    Fascinating material about portrait and sitter in general and in particular. Anyone enjoying this book, in aspects of painting and truth, fiction and truth, Gestalt philosophy, Aesthetics, and the narrative doubts of connecting stories told one to the other in the process of portraitist and sitter. And sexual matters interwoven. Yes, anyone enjoying this book should also read the ‘fiction’ works of Brian Howell (who I believe has lived and worked in Japan for many years). And classical music, paranormal religion of shrines, and the connective quality of fiction and truth again (Akinari) regarding that mound of stones. And the lineage and linkage of blood as cross-disciplines, e.g the sitter and the sister, the former’s possible daughter he might have sown during that consuming ‘fictional’ sex scene he recounted via the narrator/portraitist for us to absorb from words spoken one to the other in this fiction, and the portraitist’s late sister?

  13. 15

    “Below the stones lay more stone.”

    Excavation of the mound by Hawling … with a backhoe, although they might have needed a crane. The assonance between the buried bell and the speakers for vinyl, Mozart chamber music or modern jazz. What is found, though? Hah, like the workmen were ordered to be, I shall remain mainly silent on that score! But talk of a mummy as a form of suicide, the word ‘mummy’ indeed betokening an ironic or Ligottian anti-natalism. Transcending any Japanese writer’s Intentional Fallacy or Intentional Fantasy. Lost not in Translation but in Transcendence. No, none of this was found. My lips are sealed like a Buddhist’s, as it were. Or do I mean like a Trappist monk’s?
    Meanwhile, in our real-times today,..
    You Crane
    You Hawler
    (Erbil once had the Kurdish name Hawler.) (And Trump, after killing a Commendatore, threatened at least cultural collateral damage in the latest potential conflicts, damage similar to what was done to this mound of stones?)

    “—was it all just coincidence?”

  14. 16 & 17

    “In a strange roundabout way I must have freely intertwined my conscious and subconscious . . . I couldn’t think of any other explanation.”

    …a sure bit like I find gestalt real-time reviewing to be! Even more so when triangulated (a word I have often used in this context), triangulated with other people processing a particular book in this way. Such triangulation and explicit “intuition” are mentioned in these chapters both figuratively and physically (the stool’s position viewing the work-in-progress portrait), even using the word ‘triangulate’ at one point. And reference to fragments of dream dissolving into each other. And studying (synaesthetically?) the colours being used, e.g. concocting a special green (the battle against climate change?) and a special orange (POTUS?). Eventually my aforementioned shocking-white, these colours of emotion giving a new perspective on the emerging portrait. Its split personality? Meanwhile, the narrator has phone sex with his current girl friend, as set against another reference to the horned owl in the attic. The narrator also compares his ex-wife and the link still between them alongside the image of a shrivelled “mummy.” Related to the once would-be mummy under the mound of stones? And an “anechoic chamber”… and this book is fast becoming a staggering example of what I call Fiction as the Art of the Preternatural, collaterally and culturally.
    Finally, there is talk of the colour of the frame of the forthcoming portrait or at least its framework, and this physical book itself has such a framework with its splatter of blood or paint on its page edges. When I read this book in public, I get odd looks!

  15. 9949758C-AE1D-46DB-B33D-CF54CCC14D9D 18

    “The dark-red sweater went very well with his white hair.”

    “Some trees were redder, others dyed a deeper yellow, and some stayed green forever.”

    We watch more unearthing, the ‘hawling’, as I would call it, of the near-abstract portrait, via words, to our sight and to the sitter’s sight. Being a reader within this book is almost like the experiment conducted earlier by the sitter within the deliberately closed excavated mound. It’s like hawling a ‘portrait’ or gestalt from the book, but it’s “still-not-dry.” 682A3B57-3DAE-40DF-87DF-EC64CB5C5ED9 Another day it may be ‘stone upon stone’ whence we chip its inner statue already within it? A slow-motion earthquake?

    “The mummy hunter becomes a mummy.”

    “Time passed very slowly on top of the mountain.”

    “The white hair was a violent burst of white hair.”

  16. 19, 20 & 21

    “As the days piled up, I wore out, too, and was remade. Nothing stayed still. And time was lost.“

    …and I feel that every morning, with my 72nd birthday in a few January days’ time, in my real-time midwinter, not midsummer, every morning due to pick up this landmark book again. Meanwhile, the narrator remains business-like in his account of his life, some repeated backstory when his wife left him, and new information of a one-night intense sexual relationship with a passing unknown woman when on his random journey after his break-up and a man he also saw at that time in a restaurant, his face never forgotten by this portraitist of special skills, and he starts this new portrait TODAY. Just before seeing or meeting something or someone at night I dare not tell you about for fear of spoilers. Unless it was a dream – which it wasn’t, it seems – it was something or someone seemingly absurd or Twin-Peaksy that he saw which may be a literal spoiler to the whole book any way!

  17. 48C73C7D-4876-4688-9DE6-BBFC7ECA5E3A 22 & 23

    “The longer I looked at the painting, the less clear was the threshold between reality and unreality, flat and solid, substance and image.”

    …and that painting is the Killing Commendatore one itself, the painting painted by the house’s previous resident, the famous Japanese, now senile, nonagenarian. And the narrator doubles down on what I called an absurdity yesterday above. Talks to it about beef jerky et al. Thelonious Monk, meanwhile, provides an example of gestalt real-time reviewing in music. Read it and see. These chapters, by the way, end with my favourite Schubert: the D804 String Quartet. This and a memory of his young sister’s escapade in an Alice tunnel not unlike the sitter’s sitting under the mound of stones, but was it the ignition of that premature death process in his sister if not the sitter, the narrator wonders. Carroll’s Alice, too, an example of that reality/ unreality interface that provides a truth of a dream or imagining as a reality even realler. Holes big enough for people, or holes not thus big enough, named. Hawling from holes. Holism as healing. The Big-Headed People. Our heads or cerebral cortices big enough to read Proust. I have read Proust twice. My head must be even bigger than I imagined! That head is now compared to the sitter’s white-house, once like a cruise liner on the horizon, is now visited by all of us, along with the narrator. The portrait on the sitter’s wall, safe beyond the Intentional Fallacy of its painter. By the way, please note the legend of the vampire about not being able to enter somewhere without invitation. I duly invite you to enter this book and the various places within it. Inside your own head.

  18. 24, 25 & 26

    “Something that goes beyond the boundaries of portrait painting, yet remains a convincing portrait.”

    …this book and its doubling down on a particular talking absurdity or reality-dream, included! Specialist binoculars between truth and fiction, or house and house across the valley, and why. Meanwhile, re the sitter and a sister, these three chapters’ main topic, is where the sitter (whose would-be tête-à-tête dinner-party with the narrator is here evocatively conveyed, bespoke chef and waiter in attendance, not forgetting the aforementioned ‘absurdity’) requests a favour for his possible ‘daughter’ — the sitter’s assumed and unacknowledged love-child of 13 who reminds the narrator of his sister at a similar age before she died — to be painted as a creative portrait by the narrator. The feasibility of this project and its circumstances are discussed, too. This book is uniquely a captivating if business-like dream in many ways, and I am captivated, too, by the synergetic or symbiotic relationship of the sitter and the narrative portraitist. Mutual portrait of a portrait, a strengthening rather than a dilution.

  19. 27, 28 & 29

    “I explained in general the difference between ‘croquis’ — rough sketches — and ‘dessan’. A dessan is more of a blueprint for a painting, and requires a certain accuracy.”

    As well as croquis and dessan, the power of painted portraits, their instinctive skills and dreads or dreams associated, we also have here mention of Kafka’s fascination with slopes, people’s names like Akikawa (cf Aickman), words like Candela and Anschluss, the history of the latter in 1938 Vienna featuring the now nonagenarian painter and the eponymous painting, the Cheshire Cat, women’s clitorides (well, what else but women’s?), allegories or metaphors, symbols as truths, and sieves.
    I, for one, look forward to the narrator starting his portrait of the previous sitter’s supposed daughter, whose face we have now at least glimpsed via the sketches of it the narrator made in the classroom where he teaches her and other young students.

  20. 30, 31 & 32

    “From her black bag she took out a thick paperback with a bookstore’s paper cover.”

    The 13 year old sitter’s chaperoning aunt, that is. And the above quote about the aunt sort of begs a question, bearing in mind what I have already said about the exterior of this fat paperback I am reading and reviewing. Still one can read much even into thinness, too, like those bodies once at Treblinka, I guess. Beyond three blinks. This book indeed has a new sitter for its narrator, a sitter that ‘intertwines spirits’ with his own late sister. A sitter that, like me, studies ‘Killing Commendatore’. I study it all in detail, too, but only impart to you parts that I have judiciously chosen. The postcard of a polar bear on an iceberg, notwithstanding.

    “My breasts are really small, don’t you think?”

  21. PART 2


    “She seemed totally engrossed in the book. I was even more curious than before as to what it might be, but I didn’t ask.”

    So, I won’t ask the new sitter’s aunt, either. I will simply remark that an aunt usually is or was someone’s sister. (As I implied before, I reckon it is THIS book she is reading. Her secrecy to hide her embarrassment over the red splatter on the white pages’ edges.)

    More portrait business between the narrator and the new sitter, but little done other than their bonding – towards the portrait’s eventual success. Talk of deaths, the difficult in connecting with dear dead people. As I try to connect with this book as well as to connect things within it — and to other books. And to my life. The shifting metaphor. The gestalt on the horizon as I reach 72 today:

  22. Pingback: The Age of Aiaigasa | The Des Lewis Gestalt Real-Time Reviews

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