Between absence and presence

A reading of Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Jean_Siméon_Chardin_-_Draughtsman_-_WGA04754

 

This is Mr Murakami’s latest work, published in Japan in 2017, and translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen (I guess: a tour de force). First of all, I must say that, in my view, this is Mr Murakami’s most accomplished work thus far, a fascinating, troubling and at time challenging novel. To be sure, long haul readers will find there a familiar atmosphere, but also the unknown. I will not spoil anything, but mention some ideas and metaphors.

There is a young artist, a portrait painter, and his beautiful, estranged wife. There is a, now dead, beloved little sister. There is  a lone timber house, high up in the mountains, which belongs to a famous old painter. There is an owl in the attic. Across the valley, there is a big, strange house, with a stranger owner.

The young artist teaches drawing at a local school. He lives on his own, in the timber house, with the owl in the attic, visits the attic, walks in the woods. Behind a little shrine he discovers a pit, the pit in the woods. There is the start of the quest, with a surprising painting, and a bell.

There is Vienna, at the time of the Anschluss, there is the war in China, but this is the past, with deep consequences for the present. The old painter is famous for his classical formal Japanese paintings, but this one painting…

The novel oscillates between dream and an even more unfathomable reality. There is a lovely, pubescent young girl, her beautiful aunt, and two portraits, or is it three?

Once started this, as with all of Mr Murakami’s work, the book becomes desperately addictive: one dreads the prospect of finishing the book.

Yet the quest has to be completed, through sacrifice and ordeal.

I must add a warning: if readers wish to cross the river, between absence and presence, they must pay the ferryman. So, have your penguin ready!

That’s about the size of it.

Image: der Zeichner (the young draughtsman) by Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin)

New #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

new-day

 

Overwhelmed by sorrow, he called for his guardian angel. She came at once, and took him to the cliff to watch the sunset, just the two of them. All at once calmed, reassured, he looked up to her smiling face: then she said: “I know, you feel lonely, but in truth you are lucky, you had more love than most mortals, and maybe you did not always deserve it…”

“Now is time for you to give grace, for your life, for the children you were given, for this sunrise… And for me to come to you, as I saw your distress.”

He felt on his knees, but she insisted he stood, side by side with her, and he felt her searching his mind, destroying the demons and the false hopes.

“Of course you will die, when your time comes. For now, look at the star rising, feel the warmth, feel my hand on your shoulder, and don’t wallow in self-pity. I will come back when it is your turn…”

He felt her lips on his, her presence, and then she was gone. Alone he watched the dawn of a new day.

Fragrant #writephoto

Thursday photo prompt

rose-garden

 

“Where,” she thought, “where shall I meet you, where for our next date, my dear, so dear love?”

There is no light, darkness reigns, but she knows a place, deep in her memories, the rose garden, in late Spring, the fragrance of the blooms, the humming of the bees. She remembers, she can evoke the place, the time, his face. She sees the colours, feels the warm air on her skin.

She has to be strong, retrace her steps, and his. The monsters are building hell on earth, but she knows where Paradise lies, deep, deep in her heart. Untouchable, safe, as he will be, when they meet again, in the rose garden.

In the Pale Light of Winter #fivewords

Weekly Writing Prompt #175

rypgos

charcoal, shade, pale, wake, lucid

The rain fell, almost silent, but she could hear the little stream, outside, through the open window. She called the instant the lucid wake: those minutes before the first signs of the pale dawn. Then, everything is clear, the events of the past days in sharp relief, as if lit from inside. His smile, the fire on the beach, the shade under the pine trees, the smell of charcoal. But this wasn’t yesterday, it was years ago, her already distant past. And then it had been Summer…

Then the wine had tasted better, the air cleaner, the waves softer. His skin was like the sun itself. Where was he now? The lucid wake: she was alone, all fires long dead.

She could hear the little stream. Winter would end, another Spring would come.

 

Image source: https://wallpapersafari.com/winter-beach-scenes-wallpaper/

Setting, a Christmas tale #writephoto

Setting

silhouette

 

It was the time in the evening, when, wherever I may be, whatever the season, I love to wander: when Sol prepares to set, that is when our small globe turns his face away from the star. This was perfect. When you reach my age, a clear sky at dusk, a small cloud lit by the dying rays of the sun, those clichés suffice to make one happy, at peace.

The megaliths stood silent in darkness. I was close to one and started walking slowly around it. Bless this world, I thought, men have walked this ground for tens of millennia, already, four thousand years back, they knew much about Sol, the stars, Space, and the Moon… A tall shape was facing me, but I could not decipher if it was human or… With my stature I am rarely surprised, and most potential aggressors are deterred, but it was human, or, of human shape; as he turned his head toward me, pushing back his hood, I saw a young man, so much like many others, long hair and a short beard, a beautiful, luminous face. He smiled – oh that smile… – and talked. I thought I recognised the smile, I had seen it so often, on those ancient paintings, but I was disconcerted by the tongue he used. At first I could not understand, but I knew. The young man smiled again, walking slowly away, back to the shadows. I knew: it was Aramaic, and then I understood, the words of reassurance, the angel’s smile. His hand was on my shoulder, so strong, so warm, He wished me a happy Sabbath, I was drinking His words.

When you reach my age, you may expect miracles, but mostly, they don’t happen. I fell on my knees, words failing me, He laughed, and glided away. Petrified, I kissed the ground where He’d had His bare feet a second earlier…

“Are you alright Sir?” The young ranger was shaking my shoulder. I had not moved, and it was now pitch dark. “These hills can be dangerous at night, Sir”, said the ranger, who probably meant to add “for an old man like you…” I stood up, thanked him. “No worries, I have a wise guardian angel!” I said smiling, picked up my bag, and started walking toward the hills.

His smile was lighting my path.

Our hidden secret #writephoto

Hidden

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The small stream is known to local children, and to the occasional wanderers. For us, I know, it has meaning, one of the places where our spirits shall meet, and remember the past. We once ran over those rocks, splashing each other, in the bright light of Spring. Then, we were happy, we were young, and little did we know about the fate that awaited us. I recall your blond hair, flying in the wind, your little blue dress, your bare feet that seemed to fly over the water.

I remember the day I left, for those far away shores, I remember the sand in the desert, death at every step. I – or rather the poor ghost I became – remember the day I died, alone in a narrow street, in a faraway alien city. I remember not finding you, anywhere, until I visited the small churchyard, not too far from our stream. And now, every Spring, I come here and wait for you. I have time, I have all eternity. I know you will not remain hidden forever.

Dedicated to those who left, and never came back.

By the riverside #writephoto

Calm

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We walk hand in hand in the peace of the morning. The river flows and reminds us of times past. We haven’t forgotten, but we have forgiven. For us, forgiveness has long been our way to give thanks. After all, the monsters are dead and we are alive, at least alive enough to admire the blue sky reflected in the calm water.

Glimmer #writephoto

Glimmer

distant-lights

 

“Beyond those hills is our home”, he said softly to her ear, as they looked down the valley, toward the estuary. There the town was cradled, a thin glimmer of light against the darkness.

She shivered a little, but not from cold. She thought again of the place, the wild garden, the old walls. No-one had been there for ages. She could already hear the front door creak. Who would notice their return?

“I will look on as you fall asleep, I will wait for as long as it takes.” His voice so low only her could hear his words. She smiled, of course he will look after her, as he had done for all those years, as they roamed the world, away, so far away from home.

“We haven’t been near humans for a while…” she said, as she leaned against him.

“I know,” he replied softly, “we just hear them, they ignore us and will continue to ignore us. For them we are a flutter of fine dust, a tiny vortex in the air…”