Nakamura, Fuminori - 'The Thief' (translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates)
This, beautifully translated, dark little tale is the first of Nakamura's works to be translated into English. Previously published in 2009, it was the winner of that year's Õe Prize: Japan's most coveted literary award, and has already been highly praised in other circles. Having previously read other works translated from Japanese, I am impressed with the quality of the English in this novel; care has clearly been taken to produce a good quality and enjoyable read. The author has also written in first person, which makes it particularly absorbing as you can see everything from the main character's somewhat twisted viewpoint.
The story concerns Nishimura, a pick-pocket. He is very good at what he does and mingles with the crowd on the busy Tokyo streets on a daily basis, seeking out the wealthy with rich pickings about their persons. And given that Japan is still a cash-based society, the pickings can be very rich indeed!! He is so absorbed by what he does that he sometimes finds wallets in his pocket and can't remember having stolen them in the first place. He is also haunted by The Tower; a dark, foreboding structure from his childhood that he feels threatened by. It seems to silently watch him as he works.
Things take a downward turn for our pickpocket when a friend of his, Ishikawa, asks for his help on an apparently easy job. Things seem too good to be true, as the money they will receive is astronomical. But, after Ishikawa disappears, Nishimura starts to regret ever having become involved. Writing the book in first person really portrays Nishimura's paranoia at this point and you are most definitely on his side – even with one hand placed firmly on your own pocket.
THE THIEF is a quick, absorbing and pleasantly disturbing read. For me, it brought back memories of my own time in Tokyo and, even now that I have finished reading the book, it is still making me wary of outstretched fingers in the street…
Extremely highly recommended.
Read another review of THE THIEF.
Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
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