Friday, April 20, 2012

The Thief

The Thief

The Thief is a Japanese novel translated into English. It won the 2009 Oe Prize, Japan's highest literary prize. It is one of those novels that quickly draw you in, although the writing is brisk. Nakamura is able to be incredibly descriptive with few words.

Through the main character, you get to see what it is like to live as a pickpocket on the streets of Tokyo. The life is basically lonely. There is a certain thrill in stealing from people. The way the thief does it, he takes a wallet, pulls out the cash, but throws away the wallet with its cards. He only steals from wealthy people. He has an eye for clothes and can quickly see where a person's wallet is kept. When he does it correctly, he comes away with a feeling of warmth. However, he often discovers things in his own pockets that he does not remember stealing.

The thief is never given a name which I did not realize until I wrote this review! He does have a past which begins to close in on him with the help of the fact that he can't seem to keep from making some kind of connection or friendship with others. He is put in a tenable position by a powerful and evil man called Kizaki. This man has killed the thief's best friend and co-worker (many pickpockets work in pairs or threes). The prospect of death seems imminent for the thief yet he goes forward and does as he is told.

If you have read any manga or watched an anime series or a movie, you may be struck as I was with the similar feel to the story. Japanese writing is often dark and fatalistic. There is no real morality, simply action or non action. Although there did not seem to be a happy ending on the horizon, the book was hard to put down. I consider that a work well written.

The part that the disturbed me and made me think of my own faith, was Kizaki's insistence that we don't have free will. He has studied the thief and orchestrated the thief's own future in a careful and consistent manner. Kizaki considers himself to be a god because he can control the outcome of others' lives. He says this is what God does. God controls our lives and is worshipped because of this. Kizaki feels that he should be worshipped because of his power over the lives of others. This made me think. I do believe that God is in control. I also believe that I have free will. However, if God is in control, do I really have free will? Or is God manipulating my life circumstances for a particular ending? Or is God in control of the big picture but not my life – and what would that do about “coincidences?”

I highly recommend The Thief.

Happy reading!


1 comment:

  1. I asked God to please show me a coincidence today when I went out. And He did. Not an earthshaking coincidence, but it was definitely one…Einstein said coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous. - Jane