I am reading, every chance I get, Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami. It’s a long book (over 600 pages) and really heavy in weight – too hard to read in bed as a result.
My wife and I noticed a few novels ago that the settings, incidents and characters in his writing are not so outlandish. During our trips to Japan, in Tokyo especially, we see locations described in his books, and we see characters in the street that could be Murakami characters.
In his latest, he is describing Aokigahara, a forested region (about 30 square kilometres on the northwestern flank of Fujiyama). What makes the area remarkable is the fact that there are no insects, birds or animals in it. It is deathly quiet. You can’t use a cell phone or even a simple compass. There are three caves within: an ice cave, a wind cave and a bat cave. The wind cave figures prominently in the book. The area is also known as the “Sea or Trees” and the “Suicide Forest”. Approximately 200+ suicides take place annually. There are signs that ask victims to consider the consequences of their actions and to call a suicide prevention centre. Furthermore, a sea of trees is part of Murakami’s novel as well as a river crossing by a ferryman, who is very interesting. He is a noppera (a being with no-face), which is not elucidated in the translation. Japanese myth figures prominently in his novels. I don’t know if an explanation is in the original Japanese. The reference to the River Styx is obvious.
Killing Commendatore is about a world of metaphor. I can see how Aokigahara is a metaphor – of what is up to the reader to find out. It is a brilliant book.
Photo by Flickr user Iloé C. PARDO