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The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura

The Thief

by Fuminori Nakamura

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Japanese noir! Not only must the skill of the author be admired, but that of the translators who took a Japanese novel, albeit a short novel, and turned it into an English-language novel. I don't know if in Japanese it had the same feel to it, the same Rhythm, the same cadence, but it has a real sense to it in English, a real feel To it rather than simply being an awkward translation.

It's an unusual novel and rather than being an action piece, it is a slow languid ode to a man who is a solitary traveler through the Tokyo crowds, a master craftsman at the art of pickpocketing.

As long as he lives outside the bounds of society, disconnected, nearly ethereal, he is successful. It is only when he makes connections that he is flesh and blood again and exposed to danger. It is only then that he is tamed and captured.

It has s a rather enjoyable piece that evokes certain feelings but it is meant to be a short piece not a full deep novel. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
This is a Japanese crime novel set on the fringes of contemporary Japanese life. It is narrated in the first person by a professional pickpocket. He dresses well, so that he does not look suspicious, but otherwise lives frugally on the edges of society, with no personal connections. He is so good at his job that he can almost do it on autopilot.

Then he lets himself get entangled in some personal relationships. First, his early mentor has returned to town, and he and the narrator are forced to take part in a home robbery. They are to participate in only a limited way, and they are told there will be no violence. However, the next day he learns that the homeowner was killed, and the victim turns out to have been an important political figure. The pickpocket understands that those who forced him to participate will in all likelihood expect more from him, perhaps even his life.

About the same time, he takes a young boy under his wings. He first notices the young boy in a grocery store. His prostitute mother is making him shoplift. The narrator notices because the boy's attempts are so clumsy and he is being observed by the store owner. He intervenes, pretends to be with the boy and purchases the goods the boy has attempted to steal. Thereafter, he tries to teach the boy the tricks of the trade. Soon he realizes that his relationship with the boy has endangered the boy's life as well.

This book is almost a character study, rather than a crime book. It is a look at a man living on the edge of society, and a young boy who will probably end up there. There's also a lot of information about how to pick pockets. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 19, 2017 |
(Fiction, Contemporary, Japanese, translated)

I understand that this is a Japanese modern classic. But either it loses greatly in translation, or my sense of “classic” is off. I did persevere to the end, but it was almost painful.

Boring, not much point. 3 stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Jul 1, 2016 |
Interesting & atmospheric, the two words I keep repeating in my review.
  zombiehero | Mar 25, 2016 |
Gabrielle Hamilton
  jmail | Mar 21, 2016 |
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In simpler times, in simpler tales, authors pitted heroes against villains, and there was no confusion about who wore the black hat and who the white. We no longer live in those simple times, and most of us have grown bored with those simple tales. We want, in the books we read, something that at least approaches the complexity of the lives we lead outside of those books.
added by dcozy | editThe Japan Times, David Cozy (Jun 3, 2012)
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When I was a kid, I often messed this up.
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The Thief is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves in and out of Tokyo crowds, stealing wallets from strangers so smoothly sometimes he doesn't even remember the snatch. Most people are just a blur to him, nameless faces from whom he chooses his victims. He has no family, no friends, no connections. But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when Ishikawa, his first partner, reappears in his life, and offers him a job he can't refuse. It's an easy job: tie up an old rich man, steal the contents of the safe. No one gets hurt. Only the day after the job does he learn that the old man was a prominent politician, and that he was brutally killed after the robbery. And now the Thief is caught in a tangle even he might not be able to escape.… (more)

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