The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates [in Library Journal]
Handpicked by Nobel Laureate Kenzaburō Ōe for his eponymous Ōe Prize in 2009, Nakamura – who has also previously garnered many of Japan’s other top awards (Noma Literary New Face Prize, the coveted Akutagawa Prize) – makes his Stateside debut-in-translation.
Disguised as fast-paced, shock-fueled crime fiction, Thief resonates even more as a treatise on contemporary disconnect and paralyzing isolation. The protagonist – a virtuoso pickpocket with Robin Hood-tendencies – agrees to participate in what initially seems to be a simple robbery for a lucrative fee, only to get inescapably embroiled with the Tokyo crime world’s omnipotent power elite. Meanwhile, his last tenuous connection to society is a desperate young boy forced to clumsily shoplift by his addicted, prostitute mother. With nowhere left to run, the thief must barter his life with a labyrinthine test of his thieving prowess.
Verdict: Mystery/crime aficionados with exacting literary standards, as well as readers familiar with already-established-in-translation Japanese writers Miyuki Miyabe (Shadow Family), Natsuo Kirino (Out, Grotesque), and Keigo Higashino (Naoko, The Devotion of Suspect X), will especially enjoy discovering Nakamura.
Published: 2012 (United States)