Murakami's novel rated 'indecent' in HK

Scattered with occasional sex scenes, Killing Commendator features a portrait artist who discovers a painting an attic after his wife suddenly wants a divorce.
Scattered with occasional sex scenes, Killing Commendator features a portrait artist who discovers a painting an attic after his wife suddenly wants a divorce.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM HARUKIMURAKAMI.COM

HONG KONG • Is Japanese author Haruki Murakami's 2017 novel Killing Commendatore an indecent book?

Hong Kong's Obscene Articles Tribunal thought so and has slapped a "Class II - indecent" classification on the book, together with a pornographic magazine.

The rating means that the books cannot be distributed to anyone younger than 18 and must be sealed in a wrapper with printed warnings on the front and back.

In Hong Kong, publications classified as Class I are suitable for all ages, while Class III publications are deemed obscene and barred from sale.

The tribunal did not give any explanation for the Class II classification, but there are occasional sex scenes in the book.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council subsequently ordered the Hong Kong Book Fair, which ran from last Wednesday to yesterday, to remove the books from the event.

The exhibitors said dozens of the books were sold on the first two days of the book fair, before they were removed from the shelves, the Hong Kong media reported.

 
 

The tribunal's decision has sparked a backlash in Hong Kong, with Dr Lee Hoi Lam, a modern literature instructor at Polytechnic University, quoted by South China Morning Post as saying that the tribunal's decision was "without rhyme or reason" as it had come half a year after the novel was published in Chinese.

First published in Japanese in February last year, Murakami's latest novel relates the story of a portrait artist who goes on a month-long road trip after his wife asks for a divorce.

He then settles in a house where he discovers a mysterious painting in the attic that shares the book's title. The English version will be out later this year.

Murakami became a global sensation with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987 and he has written several bestsellers, including 1Q84 and Kafka On The Shore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2018, with the headline 'Murakami's novel rated 'indecent' in HK'. Print Edition | Subscribe