A City of Books: The Dark World of Fuminori Nakamura

Article by keaton

To enter the world of Fuminori Nakamura is to acquaint yourself with the company of deranged obsessives, sadists, merciless mob bosses, pickpockets in the middle of existential crises, life-like-doll enthusiasts, and seemingly normal people who find themselves inexplicably drawn to violence. Such is the vision of this rising star of Japanese literature, referred to by many as Haruki Murakami’s heir apparent. However, as you may have guessed from my first sentence, Nakamura’s work takes on a decidedly darker tone than that of Murakami. Where Murakami is The Beatles, Nakamura is The Rolling Stones—preoccupied with sex, death, and the fine art of self-destruction.

Nakamura is the author of nearly two dozen works in his native Japan, all of which hit the sweet spot between the insightfulness of literature and the page-turning thrills of genre fiction. He is equal parts Mishima and Chandler. THE GUN, his prize-winning debut, will mark Nakamura’s fourth novel translated into English. The premise centers around a disaffected college student who, stumbling upon a corpse one rainy day, comes into possession of a loaded revolver. He is instantly enamored with the weapon, setting him up for a descent into obsession. While deceptively simple, THE GUN is a character study that resonates deeply with the attraction we all have with death, even if we don’t realize it. It’s appearance in English is disturbingly timely, but in light of America’s own epidemic of gun violence, it is all the more relevant.

I had the opportunity to ask Nakamura some questions about bookstores in Japan, where he draws inspiration from, and his favorite Japanese authors working today.


Brazos Bookstore: Tell me about your favorite bookstore in Japan. What do you love about it? How does it reflect the literary culture of your country?

Fuminori Nakamura: My favorite bookstore is Junkudo, in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. It's a huge building with nine floors—a city of books. I also like it because it's close to my apartment. I'm not sure it specifically expresses Japanese culture in particular, but I will say the staff is extremely kind!

BB: With THE GUN and THE KINGDOM (coming in July) being published this year by Soho Press, you now have a total of five novels translated into English. But this is only a fraction of what you’ve written. Which of your other works would you most like to see translated?

FN: I'm still trying to decide about this. Can I get back to you?

[Note from Juliet Grames, Nakamura’s editor at Soho Press]: With Nakamura's guidance, Soho Press has already contracted CULT X, which was published in Japan in December 2014, and is in the process of translating it. It is quite long, and Soho foresees a 2018 pub date. Soho has also contracted and translated THE KINGDOM, which will be published in June 2016, and THE BOY IN THE EARTH, which won the 2003 Akutagawa Prize, and which will be published in 2017.]

BB: Tell me about the three best as-yet-untranslated Japanese authors that English-language readers are missing out on?

FN: Three of my favorite writers I hope to see translated are Kanako Nishi, Kou Machida, and Shu Fujizawa.

BB: While writers are of course influenced by what they read, many are often also inspired by non-book media such as music and the cinema. Is this the case for you? If so, what albums and/or films have influenced your fiction?

FN: Of course. I love jazz, classical, rock, pop, and hip-hop music, and I draw inspiration from the work of Federico Fellini, Andrei Tarkovsky, the Coen brothers, the Dardenne brothers, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, Akira Kurosawa, and Hayao Miyazaki, to name a few.


The Gun Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781616955908
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Crime - January 5th, 2016

Last Winter We Parted Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781616956141
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Soho Crime - September 1st, 2015

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