#AsianLitBingo The Boy in the Earth by Fuminori Nakamura

“All the books I have are depressing.”

“So why do you read them?”

“I don’t really know,” I said, laughing softly. “I feel like they save me. They get me thinking about things, even if it’s just that I’m not the only person who thinks it’s hard to get around in this world.”

A young man who works as a taxi driver keeps putting himself in danger.

Like throwing a cigarette butt at some drunk bikers.

“I did what I did on purpose – with clear intention. It was not unconscious, nor was it for no reason at all – I was completely cognizant and aware of my actions.”

Of course he gets badly beaten up – unconscious but he manages to wake and return home.

What is up with this guy? A guy who purposely stops his car in the middle of a crosswalk instead of avoiding another car trying to make a right turn against the light.

He lives with Sayuko. They used to work together, and now sleep together, and she’s pretty much the only person he talks to. She stays with him as she has no money and no place to live and it’s “as if she had resigned herself to sleeping with a guy if she were going to live with him”. She hates sex but does it anyway, and drinks a lot. Not the most ideal of people for him to live with but perhaps their bleak view of the world draws them together. 

The taxi driver, who remains unnamed, recently got some news about his parents who had abandoned him some 20 years ago – that his mother died, but his father is still alive. And he cannot help but wonder what his life would have been like if his parents hadn’t abandoned him. Flashbacks to his sad abused childhood intersperse his everyday life. 

A melancholic and violent tale about a very damaged man. It’s the kind of book that makes on shudder at the icy way this writer handles his characters. It’s a short read with rather sparse prose but Nakamura packs so much darkness into these 147 pages, I cannot help but marvel at his brilliance. 


I read this for Asian Lit Bingo – Translated Work by an Asian Author (it’s translated from Japanese)


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