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Under the Murakami Spell

Truth and Power in Negative Space


Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami’s fourteenth novel and nineteenth book of fiction, begins with a “faceless man” who appears to the unnamed narrator as he wakes from a nap, asking for his portrait to be drawn. When he vanishes, the narrator thinks, “If this was a dream, then the world I’m living in itself must all be a dream.” Even more inscrutable is the next line: “Maybe someday I’ll be able to draw a portrait of nothingness.”   

The narrator is a portrait painter, his clients the “so-called pillars of society” who seek his talents and pay him handsomely. Despite that, he does the work “reluctantly” since it’s not the artistic path he originally pursued as a young man.


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