A darkly melancholic tale that combines Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Camus’s The Fall set in Tokyo—Nakamura’s Akutagawa Prize-winning novel, one of Japan’s most prestigious literary awards, is the here translated into English for the first time and marks another high-water mark in this important writer’s career.
The Akutagawa Prize-Winning Novel
As an unnamed Tokyo taxi driver works a night shift, picking up fares that offer him glimpses into the lives of ordinary people, he can’t escape his own nihilistic thoughts. Almost without meaning to, he puts himself in harm’s way; he can’t stop daydreaming of suicide, envisioning himself returning to the earth in obsessive fantasies that soon become terrifying blackout episodes. The truth is, his long-estranged father has tried to reach out to him, triggering a cascade of traumatic memories. As the cab driver wrestles with the truth about his past and the history of violence in his childhood, he must also confront his present, which is no less complicated or grim.
A precursor to Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist The Thief, The Boy in the Earth is a closely told character study that poses a difficult question: Are some lives so damaged they are beyond redemption? Is every child worth trying to save? A poignant and thought-provoking tour de force by one of Japan’s leading literary voices.
The cynical and disengaged unnamed narrator of this enigmatic novel from Nakamura (The Gun) has quit his sales job at a company that produces educational materials and now works as a taxi driver in Tokyo. For no obvious reason, he picks a fight with a group of motorcyclists and, predictably, ends up badly beaten. He gives Sayuko, a former work colleague and the one person he regularly interacts with, no chance to express sympathy; they go to bed, but she shows no emotion during intercourse. Later, the narrator gets a jolt from news of the parents who abandoned him 20 years earlier: his mother has died, but his father is still alive. He can't help wondering whether he could have led a different life if he had been given reason to believe that his parents actually hoped he would grow up to be a good person. Bit by bit, Nakamura fills in some of the details of his lead's backstory, making a character who will initially seem alien to most readers less so. The action builds to a devastating conclusion that explains the title.