The Thief

thiefThe Thief
by Fuminori Nakamura
2012 / 211 pages
read by Charlie Thurston –  4h 1m
Rating – 8 (tent)

Nakamura’s first novel to be translated into English is a very dark tale, gritty and graphic, about the life and times of a career pick-pocket in Tokyo.  The first person narrator (unnamed until page 53 – Nishimura)  is well dressed and groomed.  He blends in those places where the rich congregate so he can lift wallets and watches and the like because … well … that’s what he does,   it’s his job – and he loves his job

Nishimura is NOT a nice guy however there is a real  ”save the cat” moment early on enabling the reader to at least semi-sympathize with him.  What happens is he prevents a man from groping a young teen-age girl on a train – the author has “saved the cat”  and the reader knows that this is a basically decent guy – he’s okay.  This might lend a bit of credence to his ideas, too –  a bit – maybe.   Because for all his words about undermining morality,  he upholds it in his own way.  This moral side shows again in his involvement with a young boy and his prostitute mother who is forcing the boy to shoplift.

I found the little history of pickpockets very interesting.  George Barrington is an historical person,  the others are from literature and movies – some invented probably.
There were parts which were really gritty and hard to read – but somehow the writing and the general sympathy I felt for the hero carried me through.

The style is minimal and elegant although that sometimes gets in the way of what plot there is – not a good thing,  imo.   But this is really a “crime” novel in the sense that it deals with illegal actions and the mind of an intelligent criminal –  the practicalities and the philosophical justifications of pick-pocketing – of life in the world of crime.  It’s more like Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment than Creole Belle by James Lee Burke.  I liked it.

Some Reviews:
 The Guardian
WS Journal
Washington Post
Out of the Gutter Online (a blog)

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