Fuminori Nakamura Evil and the Mask

ISBN 13: 9781616953706

Evil and the Mask

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9781616953706: Evil and the Mask

The second book by prize-winning Japanese novelist Fuminori Nakamura to be available in English translation, a follow-up to 2012's critically acclaimed The Thief─another fantastically creepy, electric literary thriller that explores the limits of human depravity─and the powerful human instinct to resist evil.
 
When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. "I created you to be a cancer on the world," his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to cause misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can. Between his education in hedonism and his family's resources, Fumihiro's life is one without repercussions. Every door is open to him, for he need obey no laws and may live out any fantasy he might have, no matter how many people are hurt in the process. But as his education progresses, Fumihiro begins to question his father's mandate, and starts to resist.
From the Hardcover edition.

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About the Author:

Fuminori Nakamura was born in 1977 and graduated from Fukushima University in 2000. He has won numerous prizes for his writing, including the Oe Prize, Japan’s largest literary award, and the prestigious Akutagawa Prize. The Thief, his first novel to be translated into English, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is the recipient of the David L. Goodis Award for Noir Fiction. He lives in Tokyo with his wife.


From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Part 1Past
 
Chapter 1
 
 
            “Now I’m going to tell you some important facts about your life.”
            I was eleven, and my father had called me to his study. In his black suit he leaned back heavily on the leather sofa, perhaps because he was already an old man and standing tired him. A ray of the setting sun peeped through a crack in the curtains. With the orange light behind him, his face was in shadow. Clutching a red, radio-controlled car, still with dirt on its tires, I was aware of how small I was in the center of the large, cold room. Father’s breath smelled faintly of alcohol.
            “About your education. This does not mean, though, that I hold any great hopes for you. It’s just that I intend to leave a ‘cancer’ in this world. Under my guidance, you will become a cancer. A personification of evil, you could say.”
            I couldn’t see my father clearly, but it was hard to imagine that he was smiling. No doubt his face was as immobile and expressionless as ever.
            “My other children are already adults, occupying important positions in society. That is because they came into the world uninvited, and were free to choose their own paths. Your life, on the other hand, I created on purpose, when I was already past sixty. This is something of a practice in my—no, our—family.”
            I still couldn’t see his face.
            “By ‘cancer’ I mean a being that will make this world miserable. That will make everyone wish that they had never been born, or at least make everyone think that the light of virtue does not shine in this world.”
            There was a knock at the door, and at his signal a young servant girl entered. Her lips and nose were narrow, her eyes large and clear. I thought she was probably my father’s type. On our estate there were at least seven domestic servants. When she whispered something to him he nodded, “Send her in,” he muttered, then turned back to me. “The most recent recorded example was in the Taisho era, almost eighty years ago.”
            The servant left the room silently.
            “Our ancestor revived the custom when he was over sixty years old—the custom of delivering a cancer into the world. He seems to have realized that his own life was nearing its end, and that even though he would die, the world would carry on. That was something he was unable to forgive. In his life he had obtained everything he wanted and he was arrogant, as I am. If his life was going to end, then everything must perish. So on June 18, 1915, a young woman gave birth to his child. To bring this world to an end—no, to be precise, to be a negative force, to make the world as unhappy as possible. He raised that child to be a cancer on society, and the boy was excellent. He turned into a creature who was destined to make many peoples’ lives hell, who was destined to increase the number of people who believed that life wasn’t worth living. They say that when the old man was on his deathbed, he was no longer afraid. He thought the unhappy people created by that cancer would create more unhappiness, and cancer would spread like gushing foam. If that continued, the world would begin to fail. Well, he thought, at the very least I have been able to create a person who will spread a stain over the light of the world in my stead after I am gone. In his bed, the old man heard the news of the outbreak of the war in the Pacific. That cancer had nothing to do with the events leading up to the war, but as a high-ranking officer he committed all manner of atrocities—so much evil that God covered his eyes.”
            The door opened and a girl I had never seen before entered. Cold air from the rest of the house flowed in, and she walked toward us on skinny legs. Her face was immediately flushed with the slanting orange sunlight, and her large eyes stood out vividly in her face. I caught my breath, confused, as though I was threatened by the unexpected presence of those eyes, as though they were going to vanish into the light. I was careful not to show it, however. My father gave no reaction to the girl’s entry.
            “With our wealth and power that have been passed down through the generations, we can use this life to do whatever we want. Then when we feel that our time is running out, by breeding one of these cancers we can mask the fear of death with amusement at the entertainment it provides. Of course this custom is not observed in every generation. From time to time, however, it is remembered and put into practice. I have revived it once more. A number of years ago a religious group occupied a nuclear power plant. When their plan was foiled by Public Security, they all committed suicide. While that group was in the process of turning into a cult, one student from Tokyo University played a leading role. His roots can be traced back to that cancer clan. Namely, he was the son of that soldier, from a lesser branch of our family tree.”
            The girl was about my age, wearing a white dress and carrying a large bag. She stared at my father and me in wonder. I looked idly at the nascent bulge of her breasts. Even after I turned back to my father, his face still hidden in shadow, the image of her white dress, tinged with orange, stayed in my mind’s eye.
            It was not just me and Father that she seemed to find strange, but everything around her. The room, spacious and unheated. The deer’s head mounted on the wall, antlers spread wide on either side, its coat covered in dust as if it had turned to stone. The enormous black desk, the sofa where my father was sitting, the countless books and earthenware pots placed carelessly on the ancient shelves.
            “First, you need to become competent.”
            My father’s lecture was not finished.
            “In this world, you must be powerful, because when an able person becomes a cancer, he is formidable. I hear you are highly intelligent. That, however, is thanks to your education thus far. The differences between people are not as great as the differences between humans and apes. Talent is simply the ability to work harder than other people. At present, you have the habit of diligence—in other words, perseverance and willpower. From now on you must also form the habit of resisting the temptation towards inertia or resignation. To purge from your soul any tendency to give up. You must also form the ability to communicate, to manage human relationships shrewdly. Last week a young man was going around assaulting people at random in the streets, but I don’t want you to limit yourself to trivial crimes like that. Under my tutelage, you will become a brilliant man. Intellectually you will be greatly in advance of your years, and then when you turn fourteen, I am going to show you hell.”
            Still he did not move a muscle. He must have been well into his seventies, and his legs were spindly. The girl continued to stand beside me, forgetting even to put her bag on the floor.
            “A hell which will make you want to reject the world. A cruel, devastating hell. This girl will play an important part in that torment. At that time, as you are entering adolescence, under the surface your psychological balance will be upset, causing major neurological disturbances. You will be engulfed by that evil, and you will feel a need to use it to influence the people around you. That is just the beginning, however. When you turn fifteen I will show you hell once more, and twice when you turn sixteen. Then at eighteen you will learn another truth about your life. All this has already been determined. It cannot be altered.”
            My father shifted position slightly, and for a moment his head moved out of the shadow. I caught a brief glimpse of his face, still completely without expression, and then it was hidden again.
            “You will become part of the nerve center of this country, or else the nerve center of some organization that is fighting against this country, and you will foment evil. I will leave you a greater share of my wealth than my other children, so that ideally this world may be brought to an end.”
            He sighed heavily. The girl’s frightened eyes were still illuminated by the glow of the setting sun.
            “Why am I telling you this now? There are three reasons. One is that I am exceedingly drunk. The second is that you are still young and will not remember this conversation for long, because you are still in short pants and holding a toy car in your hand.”
            I thought he might laugh at this, but he didn’t.
            “And the third reason is that your mother was a good woman. She spent nights with an old man like me and gave birth to you. She waited patiently for a chance to bring out the goodness that I rejected my entire life—no, which I couldn’t even comprehend. I respect that. But you will soon forget this talk. Probably you don’t even understand a word of it. It will be like a tale heard in a dream.”
            My father stood. With the light behind him, his body looked like a black void that had appeared in the air.
            “This girl will live here with you. From now on the two of you must become close. For the hell that you will see in the future, so that you will become a cancer. However, you and this girl will not live happily ever after. Never. Now got to bed. You are still a child, and there is nothing so foolish as a child.”
            Father turned his back and took a book from the shelf as though he had already forgotten us. Then he went through the door to the adjoining room at the rear. Whenever he opened a door, it never made a sound. The girl in the white dress was staring intently at the stuffed deer’s head.
            But my father was wrong. I was already a cancer. The only reason I was carrying a radio-controlled car was to deceive him. I was always thinking of ways of exterminating him, and I had been fantasizing about those plans for a long time, every day it seemed.

 
Chapter 2
 
            At that time I did not know how many rooms there were in the mansion.
            The hill behind the house was like a forest, and in the garden were two ponds surrounded by stones. The hill was untended and wild, but the ponds were stocked with carp. Usually carp live to a ripe old age, but for some unknown reason on our estate they never lasted long.
Apart from the young servant girls, there was also a quiet, middle-aged woman called Tanabe who was in charge of all the domestic staff. At first I thought she was my mother, but that wasn’t the case. I had no idea where my mother was. No one had even told me if she was alive or dead.
The girl in the white dress was named Kaori. Not even she knew her original last name. She was adopted into the family from a children’s home and given the same surname as me, Kuki. Our gloomy house was on the outskirts of Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture. The building is still standing, but no Kukis live there anymore.
Kaori and I went to the local public elementary school. Normally I would have expected to attend a private school like my older siblings, but my father wouldn’t hear of it. He thought that a public school was better for coming in contact with people from all levels of society. To make me a cancer I had to learn to mix with a wide range of people. That was probably what he had in mind.
Most of my schooling was done by three home tutors. I’ve largely forgotten what they were like. There is only one, a young man, I remember well. Although he was only there for a short time, he became a bright spot in my joyless daily routine.
He was very muscular, and behind his back the servants and I called him the Muscleman. When he heard this nickname he took a fancy to it and started using it himself. Physically, however, he was so weak that it made me wonder what those big muscles were for, and he moved ponderously. He also had a tendency to say tactless things—for example, he once told a servant whose eyes were too far apart that she was lucky to have 180-degree vision. Usually I laughed at his jokes just because that’s what children were supposed to do, but sometimes my laughter was genuine. For some reason, at those times I would feel sorry for myself.
My school life was uneventful. All I had to do was make some effort to hide my depression from those around me. I couldn’t afford to let them discover that I was the kind of boy who regularly threw lizards and other small creatures off the cliff on the hill out the back. Nor that I used to pick up hair and fingernail clippings that had been dropped around the house and store them in a box, on the theory that at least some of them must be my mother’s. Even without those eccentricities, a boy who lived in an obscenely big house and was good at nothing but studying was unlikely to fit in at school. I decided to trick them by concealing myself in a cloak of laughter. I think the other kids were more at ease with me that way. He might be a Kuki brat, they’d think, but he likes a joke as much as the rest of us, and he’s more frivolous than serious.
For instance, our homeroom teacher was so fat that he always seemed in danger of bursting. He also had the habit of saying, “To give a concrete example,” and then following up with an explanation that wasn’t concrete at all. I christened him “Concrete Bomb.” During lessons I would count how many times he said, “To give a concrete example,” and tell my classmates. The big blob’s lectures were full of statements l...

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Book Description Soho Press Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The second book by prize-winning Japanese novelist Fuminori Nakamura to be available in Englishtranslation, a follow-up to 2012 s critically acclaimed The Thief another fantastically creepy, electric literary thriller that explores the limits of human depravity and the powerful human instinct to resist evil. When Fumihiro Kuki is eleven years old, his elderly, enigmatic father calls him into his study for a meeting. Icreated you to be a cancer on the world, his father tells him. It is a tradition in their wealthy family: a patriarch, when reaching the end of his life, will beget one last child to cause misery in a world that cannot be controlled or saved. From this point on, Fumihiro will be specially educated to learn to create as much destruction and unhappiness in the world around him as a single person can. Between his education in hedonism and his family s resources, Fumihiro s life is one without repercussions. Every door is open to him, for he need obey no laws and may live out any fantasy he might have, no matter how many people are hurt in the process. But as his education progresses, Fumihiro begins to question his father s mandate, and starts to resist. From the Hardcover edition. Bookseller Inventory # AAT9781616953706

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