The main character of The Thief weaves along the streets of Tokyo pickpocketing his way through the flow of humanity, as if in a dream. He lifts wallets filled with cash and credit cards with a masterful ease, his mind occupied with a trance-like debate about whether to care anymore. Whether to care about the young kid he sees clumsily stealing food at a supermarket. Whether to care about his partner, who disappeared after a botched robbery years ago. Oscillating between the real connection he establishes with the shoplifting boy and the drug-like daze of his own criminal past, the thief drifts back into the clutches of the mastermind of that ill-fated robbery. And the thief starts to wake up, only to realize that a noose is being carefully, and slowly, drawn around his neck.
If one day I ever become a film-maker, this is the type of story which will be my film debut.
I love that the writer made a daring move that I have never seen in any story – he withheld the BIG picture which is The Crime. There’s a villain here of the James Bond “destroy-the-world-to-create-a-new-one-type” magnitude but other than some profound diatribe, we are not privy to the world-conquering event. Hence the reader is “forced” to be handheld by the only “reliable” character, the pickpocket. But what a fascinating character he is. He drifts in and out of real life… at times the prose becomes a flashback but we are not given the typical signal words to suggest this. This inspired move made me feel connected with him which is the irony of it all. When I finished devouring the book, I realised that the book is disguised as a fast-paced, shock-fueled crime fiction, but it actually could be read as a discourse on contemporary social disconnect and paralyzing isolation in our modern i-society.
I love reading the first 2 pages to my students in my Creative Writing class. A mere 2 pages describe how the anti-hero steals a wallet on a crowded train platform. It is so vivid and so on-the-edge-of-your-seat that the kids can immediately grasp what it means to describe and develop using ‘showing’ prose.
The book is only 211 pages and it is a simple employment of an economy of words to tell a fascinatingly harrowing story about a lonely pickpocket with the world and his consciousness slowly squeezing him into oblivion. I am sure, like me, you would want him to stand up for one last hurrah.