Search This Blog

31 August 2012

'The Thief' by Fuminori Nakamura translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates

This book read like stream of consciousness Japanese style.... 

And like stream of consciousness there is no real beginning and no real end.  As I closed the book, I felt like it was an introduction to a much longer book; maybe a combination of 'The Brothers Karamazov' and 'The Count of Monte Christo'.  I mean, the book is that good but also quite short.

I cared about the protagonist and found tragedy in his story and pathos as well.  He had warnings and opportunities to turn back from seeking an old friend but decides to continue.  One of the nastiest characters I have come across, ever, speaks to our protagonist of fate or Fate.  He does so rather with glee, as he considers himself master of fate.  He divides the world into people with power who can control fate and "slaves" who's life is already written out.  But I am not convinced that fate is necessarily the culprit of the protagonist's situation.  The speech by the antagonist is too neat and too cynical (if there is such a thing as too cynical).  It makes fate "the usual suspect"; I think it is a red herring.

A man makes decisions, as a result good or bad things happen to himself and others.  Fate precludes choices... the choice is predetermined and so it is not a choice at all.  The protagonist from the beginning claims to have made certain choices that brought him to where he is.  Another man claims to manipulate those choices, so he says he controls fate.  But all he holds is the power over life and death... and that is not the same thing at all.  Death is the only fate because we all die, so in that sense it is just a matter of time.  How a life is lived cannot be completely predetermined, regardless of what a powerful antagonist thinks.   The argument for a predetermined life is the boast of a powerful, bored man.  I think he wants to convince the protagonist that fate brought him to where he is.  Maybe he wants the protagonist to give up his will and truly give in to fate as defined by the antagonist.  The protagonist did not think of himself as a victim or carried along by fate. Even in the end he continues to make choices and fight.

On a less serious note, I have learnt more about pickpockets than I care to know.  For example, I did not know there is an ideal length to the fingers on your hands for this 'art'.  Moreover, given that pros work in teams, I am now much more paranoid than I used to be in airports and train stations.  Oh, one more thing, from now on I keep a look out for ambidextrous people i.e. one of my relatives and (ironically) a Japanese friend I use to have...

Nevertheless, for such a short book, quite a bit is discussed.  I feel like there is more, much more to know.  I hope Fuminori Nakamura keeps up the good work because I am eager for more.

Satoko Izumo
ISBN: 9781780339139

No comments:

Post a Comment