May 2021 Book Club Report: Fuminori Nakamura’s The Thief

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May 2021 Translated Literature Book Club Meeting

Harriett Press Book Club started after the Circuit Breaker lockdown in August last year, so we have been happily meeting physically for the past eight months. And for the first time in our book club’s very young history, we met virtually via Zoom for the first time on the last Saturday of May!

I saved travelling time and could meet the other members within the comfort of my room, but it definitely didn’t feel the same. I missed meeting the other ladies in person, getting recommendations for drinks, and sharing delicious cakes, in cafes packed with human beings. I guess that got to wait after the Heightened Alert restrictions are eased.

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The company and food aside, our discussion was as intriguing as ever. Hearing each member’s interpretation of the novel deepened my understanding of the story and helped me draw connections that I hadn’t thought of.

For the month of May, we read Japanese writer Fuminori Nakamura’s The Thief, translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates. Originally published in Japanese in 2009, The Thief was published in English in 2012. Interestingly, Fuminori Nakamura turns out to be the pseudonym of the author, which kept us really curious about the author’s real name. 

We discussed Nakamura’s unhurried style of writing, the unnamed protagonist’s childhood, the characters’ lonely yet liberating isolation, the tower that resurfaces throughout the novel, kleptomaniac disorder, guilt, ethics, our favourite phrases from the novel, and who the protagonist reminded us of. 

Here are some questions we discussed:

  • If you could sum up the novel in one sentence…
  • What do you think of Nakamura’s style of writing?
  • What is this tower that resurfaces in the novel?
  • Who is your favourite character? Did he or she remind you of someone you know?

June 2021 Book Club Selection

There are countless translated books out there, but for the convenience of our book club members we will select only books with adequate copies in the NLB. 

For the month of June, we’ll be reading Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults, translated by Ann Goldstein. 

If you’d like to join us, follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more details about our next book club meeting!

*Harriett Press’s Translated Literature Book Club is a monthly book club that meets to discuss a translated book selected for the month. Anyone is welcome to join us!⁠ Find out more about book club meetings by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!   


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