The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura; The Stranger by Albert Camus


A college student is walking late one night when he comes across a crime scene. A dead body with a gun in hand. He picks up the gun and takes it with him. Although he is also afraid as he’s breaking the law. He becomes obsessed with the gun. It brings him a strange joy.

“Once again, its overwhelming beauty and presence did not disappoint. I felt as though I might be transported – that is to say, that the world within myself could be unlocked – I felt full of such possibilities.”

This is Nakamura’s debut novel. It was first published in 2002 (English translation published 2016).

I come from a country where guns are very strictly restricted. And now I live in a country where lots of people own lots of guns. It first really hit me when I had to fill in a questionnaire for a well-child check-up, something along the lines of “do you have guns in the home and are they locked up securely?”. We don’t. But I started to wonder, do my neighbours? How about school classmates’ families?

I still marvel that this is a country where you can walk into a sporting goods store and buy a gun, and there’s a gun store about five minutes’ drive away from my house. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever feel ok about.

At any rate, The Gun is a young man’s obsession with a gun that he’s convinced is rightfully his. A gun he polishes and admires. A gun that he cannot stop thinking about. He does already have some sociopathic tendencies and this gun seems to just make things a whole lot worse.

The Gun is a rather unsettling read about an obsession.


It was quite a similar read to The Stranger by Albert Camus. In that they both have main characters who are very detached from the world around them. Was Fuminori Nakamura inspired by The Stranger? Both characters have little or no feelings for the women they are involved with, nor their friends and neighbours. Perhaps The Gun is a modern, Japanese take on The Stranger.

I guess I should talk more about The Stranger here. I guess I didn’t expect it to be told so simply, and so effectively. It was a quick read that left me with many questions, which I suppose may be the point of all this.

Meursault has few (if any) opinions on anything, few (if any) feelings and emotions about anything that happens in the book. Is Camus’ point of this to allow the reader to project herself into his shoes? As we went through the trial, I kept thinking of how so much of it annoyed me, how the witnesses at the funeral pointed out that Meursault didn’t cry, and instead smoked and drank coffee. That he wasn’t sure of his mother’s age. As if all these were definitions of whether he had been sad about the death of his mother.

Typing this, I realised that I had an emotional reaction about a character who doesn’t seem to feel much emotions.

Was I glad to have read this book? I still do not know. But I suppose I am glad to finally know what the book is about. It wasn’t in any way a pleasant read, but perhaps in the future it may be something I reread.

I read The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura for January in Japan; and The Stranger by Albert Camus for Back to the Classics.


  1. My mum and grandma feel uncomfortable that my aunt, having moved to the southern states of the US, has a husband who has guns. They just don’t talk to her about it.
    I enjoyed Last Winter We Parted a lot at my book group. Many didn’t get into the more detached style of writing though. That had obsession in it too.
    I took away a strong image of glaring heat and confusion from The Stranger. It was definitely an obscure read.


  2. So glad to have you for the Japanese Literature Challenge 14! I own The Gun (novel ☺️), and while I haven’t read it yet, Nakamura’s books are always thought provoking. It seems an especially timely subject now in the U.S., as we face many political issues and our Constitution. But, I never thought of a comparison between The Gun and The Stranger; how fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read a couple of his other books (The Boy in the Earth, The Thief) sometime ago and they’re such dark reads. There was one in particular that I did not like at all – The Kingdom, which was just a bit too weird.


  3. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on The Gun and can relate to that experience of being surprised at that question at the pediatrician’s office. I live within a few blocks of a major gun club and one of the things I never expected to have to think about is whether I am okay letting my child visit friends’ homes for exactly the reasons you suggest.
    I liked aspects of the book finding its depiction of obsession quite engaging. I did have plenty of questions though at the end about whether the gun made Nishikawa feel he could do things he didn’t feel empowered to do before or if it actually changed him and exerted its own power over him. I wasn’t sure that the author offered a clear answer to that (though I think you lean towards the former based on describing him as already exhibiting some sociopathic tendencies before finding the gun) but it is certainly a provocative idea.


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