Monday, November 30, 2015

Evil and Karma

At the recently concluded Singapore Writers Festival (SWF), the man was curious about Fuminori Nakamura and picked up two of his books that had been translated to English. His stories have been termed as 'Tokyo noir'.

Fuminori Nakamura is a new-to-me author. I read his 'The Thief' in English and wanted to fling it into the pond. Dug up a Japanese copy, which made it better in terms of phrasing. But it was so short that I finished it in 20 minutes! The story ended on such an annoying note that I knew (and the writer confirmed it as much when he spoke at the SWF panel) that there would be a sequel. Perhaps a whole series even. Nishimura, the protagonist career pickpocket is too undeveloped a character to be killed at that stage. ARRRGHH. Started on his other book in an English edition of 'Evil and The Mask'. Translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates, the language is straightforward, making for an easy read.

There's no mystery in the sense of solving of crimes, etc. It feels more of a telling of a story. It's an interesting story for sure. What followed was a story strung together to tell of human machinations behind domestic and international terrorist attacks; in this context, masterminded by Japanese corporations with wealthy patriarchs who held masochistic inclinations to father a last son in their twilight years and raise him to be a 'cancer' to the world. It throws far-ranging world situations of civil wars, World War II, domestic sarin gas attacks, and link them back to Japanese evil-doers. That alone, might reach the realm of fantasy. It's like how we're intensely debating the entire existence of Daesh and the civil war in Syria, versus Turkey's pivotal role.

Readers wonder what protagonist Fumihiro Kuki's story is, and how he as a 'cancer' will live his life. Many people got killed in the most unimaginative way with no gory details. Not that exciting. It's a little introspective even. Fumihiro underwent plastic surgery, bought someone else's identity, became Koichi Shintani, and tried to live another life while solving the mystery of his old life. He traced the steps of childhood sweetheart, his sister, not by blood, but by adoption, Kaori Kuki. He got mixed up in his family's crime lineage, killed two persons or so, among other stuff. It wasn't boring, but it wasn't the most exciting. The plot became predictable at a few turns. The book explains it all and ties it up too neatly at the end. It ended on a hopeful note of a new life. I was rather amused.

"I saw you once, at the estate." 
We walked past a row of waiting taxis. I noticed for the first time that he was a little taller than me. I looked straight back at him to show that I understood the significance of his words. 
"You were about six or seven. I visited the house in Nagoya to report the results of an investigation to Shozo, and I saw you in the corridor, really skinny, with some toy blocks in your hand. I'm sure you don't remember it, but at that moment our eyes met. Your eyes looked like they were starved of love, like you were longing for some warmth, some affection, from the bottom of your heart. The same eyes I had when I was a child." 
I watched his weary face for a few seconds. It was deeply lined but it was resolute. Several people walked past us on the way to the terminal. I stuck out my right hand and he shook it. 
"Thanks for everything." I said. 
"Let's go for a drink together sometime, nothing to do with work."

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