Chopin’s Heart

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Chopin’s Heart
Author: Mami Aoya
Specifications: ISBN  978-4591151402
273 pages
13.5 x 19.4 cm / 5.4 x 7.7 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Poplar Publishing Co., Ltd.
Tokyo, 2016
www.poplar.co.jp
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

Kenta is still trying to find a job after graduating from college. Passing through a shopping district on his way back from an interview, he sees a storefront with a curious sign that says “Odd-Job Art Detective” and decides to enter. The shop is owned by an art dealer named Nagumo, who not only buys and sells but takes on investigations having to do with works of art. Before he leaves the shop Kenta has agreed to work for Nagumo on a part-time basis.

One day a woman named Kiwako, who identifies herself as a curator at an art museum, asks them to find a work by the late Mitsuo Murayama that the artist himself had once described as being “like Chopin’s heart.” The museum where Kiwako works is planning a retrospective of Murayama’s work, and they are eager to include the painting that Murayama himself considered his greatest masterpiece.

More than a decade has passed since Murayama’s death, and since his works neither won awards nor commanded high prices, information is difficult to come by. In researching the expression “like Chopin’s heart,” Kenta learns that the Polish composer and virtuoso pianist Frédéric Chopin had died in Paris, far from home, but his sister Ludwika had transported his heart back to Warsaw for burial. The rest of his body had remained in Paris, and only his heart had been returned to Poland. Kenta conjectures by analogy that perhaps the Murayama work in question had a portion of it cut off. This is confirmed when it comes to light that a piece of the painting has been hidden in a wall-space at a department store Murayama had once loaned the work to. Then Kenta discovers that the department store is owned by none other than Kiwako’s father, Seiichi.

When Kenta confronts Seiichi, he learns the full story. Seiichi and Murayama had been classmates and close friends in art school. Seiichi thought highly of Murayama’s talent, but he feared Murayama’s Zainichi background—the term refers to Korean citizens born and raised in Japan as permanent residents—would be a major handicap for him in the Japanese art world, which remained highly insular at the time. When Murayama finally got his chance to bask in the spotlight, it was for a work that included an ethnic dance scene that was sure to give away his origin. Wanting more than anything to see Murayama succeed, Seiichi cut off that part of the painting without consulting him. When Murayama later learned of this, he flew into a rage and severed all ties with Seiichi. His deepest desire was to paint works that would give strength to the many like him who suffered constant discrimination from their host country, and Seiichi had in effect hacked off his hope and cast it aside. Stung by his friend’s betrayal, Murayama set down his brush, and the damaged painting was locked away never to be seen. That was the work that came to be referred to as “Chopin’s heart.”

With deft plotting, author Mami Aoya unravels the mystery behind a lost painting through research and deduction even as she challenges readers to think about discrimination in Japan.