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Fuminori Nakamura’s The Thief is still one of the best mindfcuk in prose form for me. When I saw his new one, Evil and the Mask at the bookstore, I did not perform a ritual I always do – check the Amazon price. I bought it straightaway because I couldn’t wait to read it.

When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. “I created you to be a cancer on the world,” his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to cause misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can. Between his education in hedonism and his family’s resources, Fumihiro’s life is one without repercussions. Every door is open to him, for he need obey no laws and may live out any fantasy he might have, no matter how many people are hurt in the process. But as his education progresses, Fumihiro begins to question his father’s mandate, and starts to resist.

Right from the interesting premise I was enthralled with this sprawling epic. It’s not really a pure Good versus Evil story, but more of a deconstruction of Evil. As I was reading it I kept thinking that Fumihiro will turn out to be the ultimate villain in The Thief, but it didn’t go in that direction. The plot goes in three directions but thankfully I didn’t find it confusing. In fact, I find it thought provoking. Characters sometimes go on a long diatribe on what is evil and what is its identity, which never bored me. The suspense is psychological and right in the centre it is also a tender love story. Great stuff! I would read anything Fuminori Nakamura writes, even if it is a cookbook.

 

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