Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura

17 October, 2013

Evil and the Mask

I created you to be a cancer on the world.

Fumihiro Kuki is the youngest son of the powerful Kuki family whose business sprawls and controls most of Japan. His father has revived the eccentric family tradition of breeding a son in old age to become a cancer, one with which to destroy everything that people hold dear. As part of his training, he has planned Fumihiro’s life in such a way that when he turns 14, he will experience hell. And this will be the catalyst which will turn Fumihiro into a harbinger of doom. But Fumihiro is smart and aware and tries to stay one step ahead of his hateful father. And there is Kaori, a young girl who is adopted from an orphanage to keep Fumihiro company. Both starved of love, they only have each other. And so begins Evil and the Mask, a dark, twisted tale by Fuminori Nakamura.

It’s one of those novel where the less you know, the more you will be surprised. Like Nakamura’s previous novel, The Thief, the translation is spot on and smooth, and you can’t help but fall into the story. I was expecting something a little more doomsday-ish like in the Japanese ultra-violent films so popular in the West. But Evil and the Mask is subtler, deeper and is more about the potential effect of evil on the human psyche. The fact that Fumihiro tries to fight against his destiny even going so far as to have plastic surgery, that he sacrifices his own happiness for another’s, that he has found some sort of purpose to his life because of the realisation that it isn’t about himself anymore is something to ponder upon. Like The Thief, Nakamura digs deep into our fears and makes us confront what it means to be human and what it takes to resist evil when it won’t let you go.

Although I’m a huge fan of Nakamura’s style and enjoyed reading Evil and the Mask, my only sticking point is that the novel feels slightly passive when you compare it to The Thief. There is a lot of reflection but not much action – it’s as though Fumihiro is the perpetual outsider, looking into what his life should have been like. It’s a wonderful novel on regret and what-ifs but it may fall a little short if you are looking for something more exciting.

I would like to thank Soho Press for kindly sending me a copy to review.

I read this as part of Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge 7 and Carl’s R.I.P. VIII. Do go and see what others have been reading.

10 Responses to “Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura”

  1. The Thief is on my TBR list (not yet made it to the pile) but this sounds excellent, too. I’ve not read anything by Nakamura before – which would you suggest for me to buy?

  2. nymeria Says:

    First time hearing abour this author, but the book looks really nice. Thanks for this review !

  3. It sounds very interesting. What a terrible fate for a kid, yikes! One of the interesting things about reading novels from another culture is discovering both the differences in how story is approached but also the similarities in experiences that people in general have, regardless of where one lives or is from.

  4. Bellezza Says:

    I was so crazy about The Thief, and I own Evil and the Mask, but I’ve been reluctant to read it as the second book by an author is often a disappointment (to me). It’s interesting to know that you felt the same way to some degree. Good translation, but now as good as the first book he wrote. Plus, the idea of a father instilling evil in his son does strike anathema to my heart.

    • sakura Says:

      I often feel that if you put enough time in between, it’s usually alright. But on the other hand, if you loved a book so much, you can’t wait to try the others by the same author. Dilemma!

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