Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura


As the title suggests in this book we have the story of a thief; but not a thief like everybody else, but one with a conscience.
     The action begins straight away as we watch our protagonist and narrator pick the wallet from the pocket of a rich man at the train station, while his next victim, a not so rich man riding the train is soon to follow. When it comes to pick-pocketing he’s a master, however lately things don’t seem to go as smoothly as they used to go. He keeps following his mentor’s rules, stealing only cash and returning the wallets along with the credit cards to the rightful owners by mail, but somehow he now feels different, kind of unfulfilled, and he becomes really absent-minded. He also starts having short black-outs, during which he steals wallets without even realizing it, and he feels more sad by the day. It’s as if there’s a void inside of him that keeps growing and expanding, along with his loneliness: “I had built a wall around me and lived by sneaking into the gaps in the darkness of life,” he says.
    Well, that wall now seems to be coming tumbling down. But maybe he’s not to blame for what is happening, but just life and its harsh realities. His fall from grace starts when Ishikawa, his mentor, asks for his help for a job unlike any other they’ve ever been involved with: an armed robbery. They do manage to have the job done, but from that point on there seems to be no way for them to return to their previews lives, since their employer for that particular job was a ruthless and fearless mob boss who was not willing to let them go; at least not alive. The protagonist who now has to cope with this new reality, whether he likes it or not starts to contemplate his life and his choices, and where the latter now lead him. As a pick-pocket he’s great, but apart from that what else does he have or has he done in his life worth mentioning? Apparently nothing, or maybe just something, or somebody; somebody from the past, Saeko, a woman he used to love. However, the past is the past, now he needs to find something or someone to help him hold on to today. What, or who, could that be?
     As it turns out he’ll meet his new project in the faces of an unconventional team of thieves, a mother and her very young son. He’ll spot the two of them as they’ll be trying to steal some things from a supermarket and he’ll save them from certain catastrophe; the amateurs. From that day onwards he’ll feel like his life has finally found its purpose, or rather he’ll rediscover his will to live. In the face of the young kid he’s certain that he met a younger version of his own self and he’s determined to help him create a better future for himself. And even though, at the kid’s insistence he’ll teach him some of his tricks, at the same time he’ll try to save him from his miserable life. By saving the kid he saves himself, and by opposing and coming into conflict with his disgrace of a mother, in the end he becomes the person that he’s actually always been; a good man.
     This is a well-written novella, which even though it seems to belong under the crime fiction label, reads more like a psychological drama than a thriller.

1 comment:

Matthew Selwyn said...

I'd definitely agree that this is so much more than a crime novella. Nakamura certainly has a lot to say, and I enjoyed reading this, and recently jotting my thoughts down in a review.