Thursday, 28 January 2016

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

Although Nakamura's first novel, first published in 2003, and awarded the Shincho Prize, The Gun is the fourth novel of his to appear in English translation, this time by Allison Markin Powell, it's also great to see that the momentum of translations continues with another of Nakamura's novels on the way in 2016 also from Soho Crime, The Kingdom is set to be published in July. The Gun/Jū displays Nakamura's foray into dark psychologies with his central character Nishikawa who stumbles across a crime scene and procures from it a gun, listening to Nishikawa's inner ruminations can feel that we are taking a few steps into the realm of a character from Dostoyevsky, as step by step we begin to venture further and further into the world of a young man so disenchanted with life that the centre of his world begins to revolve around the found gun.

This obsession being essentially at the centre of the novel Nakamura's narrative inhabits a few other patches of distraction, firstly Nishikawa's relationships with two women in the novel, Yuko Yoshikawa, whom Nishikawa has the more deeper relationship and fascination with and also another woman whom Nishikawa eventually refers to as the 'toast girl' which is a more casual relationship, the pair seem to use each other solely to satisfy their own lusts. Out of the two women Yuko displays the more complexity as we see she and Nishikawa get closer then further away from each other, the reasons for this on her part never seem to become too obvious, a troubled past?. Secondly is the discovery that Nishikawa's biological father is dying of cancer, which seems to be an event that will shake Nishikawa off his obsession from the gun, and posits another possible opportunity to gain a differing perspective on his transfixation with it. Another similarity The Gun has with The Thief is the appearance of a child, a young boy, caught in an abusive situation with his single parent, similar also is the empathy the main character has towards the boy, and his desire to rescue him from his predicament. The Gun could be described as noir, and in many places it is, but there remains a deeper portrait of drab morality in all quarters of the novel which again could be described as resembling aspects from a Russian novel, this darkness Nakamura captures and conveys very well.

That said, the prose has a lightness to it making it highly readable and in places it makes for quick reading, at times it's unfolding events might be visualized in the form of a dark manga, when Nishikawa contemplates the gun and it's wider philosophy sometimes the images of thought bubbles appearing on the pages come to mind, and the ending bears the possibility as being visualized as filmic, in it's sudden and unpredicted way of turning the tables around over it's last pages. Through this though we see the beginnings of Nakamura's writing being drawn to the examination of one man's attraction to violence and follows him through his compulsion to act upon it, it's consequences for him remain on the pages beyond the end of this book, as deftly as the borderlines his characters find themselves drifting over.

The Gun at Soho Press     

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