Another day, another book whose readership is getting restricted by the powers that be. Hong Kong has called Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendatore "indecent" and is restricting access to readers 18 and older only. Murakami is the latest author to find his work deemed inappropriate for certain readers in Hong Kong, where LGBTQIAP+ children's books were pulled from library shelves last month.
First published in Japan last year, Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendatore centers on an artist who decides to stay in the house of a famous artist after his separation from his wife. In the attic of the house, he discovers a mysterious painting that turns out to be a scene from the Mozart opera Don Giovanni. According to the book's Amazon listing, the Chinese-language edition hit stores on Feb. 1 of this year. Killing Commendatore won't be published in the U.S. and U.K. until this fall.
Under Hong Kong law, Chinese-language editions of Killing Commendatore "must be sealed in a wrapper with printed warnings on the front and back covers," and may not be purchased or checked out by people younger than 18. Media censorship in Hong Kong falls under the jurisdiction of the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance. The South China Morning Post reports that "[i]ndecency is deemed to include 'violence, depravity and repulsiveness.'" Other materials recently labelled as indecent under the ordinance include Lung Fu Pao, an adult magazine, and model Ealies Chau's photobook, Ealies Chau - First Album.
Censorship of Killing Commendatore comes on the heels of a decision from Hong Kong's Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) to remove LGBTQIAP+ children's books from the main collections of public libraries. The books' removal came after an anti-LGBTQ group, the Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group, who claimed that books like Tango Makes Three and The Boy in the Dress "promote homosexuality." Hong Kong's LCSD told Hong Kong Free Press that the books did not "encourage . . . same-sex marriage or advocate homosexuality," and suggested that they would have been banned from library collections entirely if they had. A spokesperson for the Hong Kong LGBTQIAP+ rights group BigLove Alliance said of the LCSD: "Their decision is inconsistent and makes no sense."
If pressure from interest groups worked to get LGBTQIAP+ children's books out of Hong Kong's libraries, some believe it may work to put Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendator back into a non-restricted collection. The Guardian reports that nearly 2,000 people have signed a Chinese-language petition to overturn the condemnation of Murakami's novel. PEN Hong Kong's Jason Y. Ng told the newspaper, "Any citizen, gay or straight, should be equally outraged by such blatant censorship. We hope that civil society in Hong Kong will continue to stay vigilant to ensure that these isolated incidents don’t turn into a troubling pattern and eventually to a new normal."
Haruki Murakami's Killing Commendatore, translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen, will be available in the United States on Oct. 9. The book is available for pre-order now.