Sunday, January 17, 2016

THE GUN by Fuminori Nakamura

This noir tale (the Shincho Prize-Winning Debut) is uncomfortable to read yet totally compelling.  The discomfort may be caused by  having a good idea where the story is going and simply not wishing to go there.  Yet, in many ways it is irresistible -  the prose is spare, artistically written.

    Nakamura wastes no time in setting his stage as the story opens on a dark rainy night when young Nishikawa walks without aim, “The relentlessness of the rain” seeming to symbolize his own melancholy.  There you have it - dark, pouring rain and a melancholy young man who walks under a bridge and comes upon a corpse with a gun lying close by.  Rather than the sight of a dead person it is the gun that captures Nishikawa.  He takes the .357 magnum handgun with him and hides it in his small apartment.

    Initially he is content merely to possess the gun.  He finds a secret place for it, buys silky cloth to place it on, derives pleasure from repeatedly polishing it.  As time passes he has liaisons with several girls and attends classes but it is the gun that fills his mind.  Eventually, as one would anticipate simply possessing the gun is no longer enough for him.

    The Gun is a dark tale, producing shivers as the story moves to its inevitable conclusion.  Yet the choice of words, the brevity of prose is work by a master of his craft.

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