Photo/IllutrationA shelf is filled with Haruki Murakami’s works ahead of the Feb. 24 release of his new title at the Nagoya main store of the Maruzen bookstore chain. (Takashi Takizawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Bookstores have excitedly prepared for the long-awaited release on Feb. 24 of Haruki Murakami’s latest work, while speculation is rife over what the contents may be.

The two-volume series is titled “Kishidancho Goroshi” (Killing Commendatore). But in keeping with tradition for Murakami’s books, the storyline has not been revealed.

The release, the first full-length novel for Murakami since “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” four years ago, is welcome news for the struggling book retailers.

Shinchosha Publishing Co. initially printed 500,000 copies for each volume, an unusually high number.

After receiving a flood of pre-orders, the company decided on a second print run even before the release--200,000 copies for the first volume and 100,000 for the second.

“Books by Murakami are hands-down hits,” said an employee in charge of new titles at the Nagoya main store of the Maruzen bookstore chain. “The title for the new series is sensational, and it has plenty of punch.”

The store will receive about 1,000 copies on the morning of the release date.

“It won’t even take a week to sell out,” the employee said.

The main shelf in the shop is already dedicated to Murakami’s past works.

The Books Hoshino branch in a shopping mall attached to bustling Nagoya Station will set up stalls on the ground floor passage of the mall and other busy areas from about 7 a.m. on Feb. 24, three hours ahead of its usual opening time. It hopes to attract early commuters before they can purchase the books elsewhere.

The bookstore even created special jackets for the street-vending team with the title of the series on the back.

The subtitles of the two volumes--“Arawareru idea” (Emerging idea) and “Utsurou metaphor” (Moving metaphor)--have also been announced, stirring speculation over the Internet. Some people who have posted their views believe Murakami has written a full-scale mystery novel.

But Hiroki Kato, 37, who lives in Nagoya and organizes Haruki-kai, a book club dedicated to Murakami’s works, expects fantasy fiction.

He said Murakami’s books tend to alternate between fantasy and realism, and he cited the word “killing” in the title as a clue.

“Based on what Murakami has said in his past works, I suspect the word is for a symbolic act of ‘killing,’ in a more psychological sense than a physical murder,” Kato said.

Yoshinori Shimizu, a literary critic and professor of creative writing at Aichi Shukutoku University, said the title indicates that Murakami has kept in mind the international market.

“The title is highly unusual for a novel, and he is thinking about translation into foreign languages and international critiques,” Shimizu said. “Like ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’ and ‘1Q84’ that were initially published in two parts, a third part may follow.”

Shimizu, who has published a book on Murakami’s works, said the latest title reminds him of “Don Giovanni,” an opera featuring music composed by Mozart.

In one scene of the opera, a “commendatore” is murdered by the protagonist.

“The commendatore in the play is the father of a young woman who was seduced by Giovanni, and I imagine the theme of patricide, which was depicted indirectly in ‘1Q84,’ will be told once again but more directly this time,” Shimizu said. “The subject may be the relationship between child and father that Murakami has long been reluctant to write about.”

Murakami, 68, is one of the few Japanese authors whose works promise to become bestsellers. Every year, his name is mentioned as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature.