Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura ****

Fumihiro Kuki is Raskolnikov for the the 21st century. Evil and the Mask by Fuminori Nakamura is a philosophical thriller in the tradition of Dostoevsky, where the psychological consequences of a "it seemed like a good idea at the time" murder unfold as amoral punishment for the crime.

While the book is part crime mystery - there is a detective pursuing Fumihiro - and part political thriller - Fumihiro might be connected with a terrorist group - it is mostly a study of individual privilege and amorality. Fumihiro's father, in his sixties and very rich, raises him to be a "cancer," to bring evil into the world. Fumihiro, still a child, resists this parental plan by murdering his father.

From there Fumihiro struggles with the triple theme of nature, nurture, and free will. How much of his behavior is from his family history/genetics, what can be blamed on his father, and for what does he have to assume personal responsibility. In this beautifully written book, Fumihiro vacillates between living in the present, logically dealing with his day-to-day needs for companionship and security, protecting himself and his childhood sweetheart, Kaori, and analyzing the full arc of his life, trying to understand the personal and societal effects of his actions, especially of murders. 

People around Fumihiro die, some might be accidental, some might be suicides, and all might be murders, by Fumihiro, or someone else. This ambiguity reflects Fumihiro's life, concrete on one level - people are dead - and unknown on many other levels - who? why? why? While it is the nature of rational analysis to focus on alternative explanations, this book raises the question of whether continuous inquiry is driven by the quest for Truth and a way to avoid confronting it.

If you liked Crime and Punishment, you'll love Evil and the Mask, for all the same reasons.

I received a free copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.

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