For Japanese June, I decided to read a book by an author I’ve never heard of before and a title I only found by chance while browsing the shelves at the library a few weeks ago. It’s a short novel called The Thief, and it’s about this man, Nishimura, who is a pickpocket. I would like to say it’s a mystery novel, but there’s not really one cohesive case or mystery here, it’s more a character study. I’m not even sure if I would call it a character study, because yes it follows Nishimura as he goes about his life, and most of it takes place in only a few days, but there’s much of his personality and life that remains unsaid.
I would say that this book is very atmospheric. For me, the biggest strength this book had was that it was like watching a movie. I could really picture everything clearly in my head. It might be partly because of my familarity with Japan in general (the culture, the environment, the way people behave generally, etc) but I think Fuminori Nakamura was also quite good at capturing that essence of the environment and the people in his writing. I found the narrator, Nishimura, interesting especially because I have never read a book from a pickpocket’s perspective, not surprising since I doubt they are common. But I found this part of the book really interesting, the way his techniques were described, his process, his way of life, even just his general life philosophy – almost reminiscent of a psychopath I felt. For example he steals from people and have done so from a young age, but doesn’t feel guilty about it neither does he think it’s wrong. Rather, it seems to be a very natural action for him. He seems to lack any real bounds to the world or people, even though he is haunted by ghosts. Anyway, I found his character interesting because it was different and I also enjoyed the part of the book that focuses on his interactions with the young boy.
Although I found it atmospheric and interesting, I did not connect with the story or the characters. This isn’t really a problem for me, since I still enjoyed the reading experience overall – but it’s worth mentioning to those planning to pick it up. The ending was also slightly abrupt, or cut short I’d say, which was slightly disappointing but overall I still think this was an interesting and entertaining book, especially recommended to those who already are familiar with the way Japanese authors tend to write as it’s definitely “typical” Japanese, at least this is my opinion.
That’s all for now. Happy Reading!