Evil and the Mask is my third array into Fuminori Nakamura’s fiction. Like The Thief, it entertained and sometimes captivated me – most of all being an almost cinematographic experience. There’s a sense of place, a sense of time down to the second – a passing moment, captured in prose. I think the bareness of Nakamura’s writing is what allows me to feel this way, to fill in the blanks and to transport to that setting. This experience like watching a movie; I’ve felt it both with The Thief and with Evil and the Mask.
Evil and the Mask follows a man, Fumihiro, first as a boy – a talk with his dad about his future and the things he has planned for him sets the scene for this novel. We see Fumihiro as an adult, what happened to him between then and now, and eventually the past and the present meet. Most of the novel focuses on his adult life; what has gone wrong since he (slight spoiler: killed his father), how he grew up, all of the sins he commits along the way, and what happened to that woman he loved all those years ago. He meets with a cast of odd characters, all of them with their own issues with the world and the people in it. It’s a story filled with crime, politics, ambiguous morality, corruption, hate and also a sort of hope in what life can bring.
I enjoy the way Nakamura tells the stories through the criminal – the “bad guy” is the narrator and it allows for an interesting examination of the emotional process of committing a crime, especially murder. Nakamura also discusses evil – what it means to be evil, how its created, if people are born bad, what happens when we kill someone – why it’s so bad. I also felt as though he was critiquing the Japanese system and politics, law, etc. as well, through his characters and their apathy towards the society around them, and the bounds within that society.
All in all, a solid book which will likely keep you entertained and might even provoke some thoughts on the concepts of evil, purpose, and the constructions of society.