The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis book review: Fumitori Nakamura’s Japanese novel ‘The Thief’

Written By: herbrunbridge - Aug• 03•13

NakamuraThiefNishimura, the lifelong pickpocket in Fumitori Nakamura’s novel The Thief (2009, ISBN 978-1-47210-695-7) is the embodiment of nihilism, to such an extent that his name appears fewer than ten times in the book. He loves no one and compulsively plies his trade in return for the small amount of joy it gives him. The one person he ends up caring for, a young boy with a worthless mother, he befriends by first teaching him how to be a more effective shoplifter. Eventually he makes an attempt at moralizing to him, then creates a situation in which he can succeed in a foster home.

Nakamura’s terse style of writing is well-translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates, and many of the most compelling passages detail the sartorial aspects of the perfect shoplifter, from the prosperous-looking clothes to the secret pockets sewn into coats. The author leaves out nothing in terms of pickpocketing technique.

Japan-290x200Eventually, the protagonist falls into the omniscient clutches of Kizaki, a mastermind criminal, a political killer well-beyond the purvey of street-level Yakuza. Kizaki is the éminence grisewho determines Nishimura’s fate, which involves two elaborate schemes, and a wild Japanese sex club. In an interesting and somewhat subtle twist, a robbery is conducted by Japanese gangsters pretending they’re Chinese, right down to fake accents and disguised jackets laden with body odor. Could this be a cultural statement? After all, Japanese are known for their bathing habits. In Japan, do Chinese have a reputation for being hygienically not up to snuff?

The book is a masterpiece of crime fiction, and we recommend it. Buy it now at the WoWasis eStore.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.