My Annihilation, Watashi no shoumetsu, a ‘smashing success’ judging from its many reviews in the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Japan Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and beyond, is already starting to appear on best book lists. Translated by Sam Bett, who like Nakamura himself has a growing group of admirers, My Annihilation was originally published in Japanese in 2016.
Nakamura, one of Red Circle’s curated group of award-winning authors, is considered by some as the most exciting thriller and crime writer of his generation in Japan. An author, sometimes dubbed as the Zen master of noire, whose fast-paced narratives hypnotically blend psychological suspense with literary fiction. ‘I’m bursting with story ideas. It’s not a talent, it’s more like a disease,’ is how the author himself puts it.
My Annihilation is a complex kaleidoscopic tale that fuses and weaves autobiographical diary-like text apparently from a man named Ryodai Kozuka, a narrator, as well as information about Tsutomu Miyazaki, an actual Japanese man who was executed in 2008 for the murder of four young girls (aged between 4 and 7), into its highly original nonlinear fragmented narrative structure.
It also poses difficult existential questions about identity and self, such as: is it the continuity of memories that make us the same person throughout our lives; and what happens if these memories are fragmented or disrupted? Does that destroy our identity as a given person? How does memory capture and interplay with tragedy? And what is it that makes you a killer?
As is the case with all of Nakamura’s mysteries, his crafty strategic withholding of information, and the plot’s twists, turns and reveals, make My Annihilation a gripping unpredictable read. It was awarded the 26th Prix des Deux Magots Bunkamura Prize in Japan in the year of its publication in Japanese.
What some reviewer have said so far:
“The Star Japanese crime novelist almost too good to translate…Camus meets Chandler in Japan, via the hall-of-mirrors killer, ‘My Annihilation,’” Los Angeles Times
“a literary labyrinth of forking paths. Surgical memory erasure, subliminal messaging, sexual blackmail and suicide all feature in this bravura work, which evokes the feel of such diverse writers as Calvino, Highsmith, Kafka and Dick,” The Wall Street Journal
“… has made a career out of pushing the boundaries of existential horror, shining a light on the darkest shadows of humanity . . . My Annihilation is a compulsive read… This chilling psychological mystery about a violent crime promises not to disappoint. Expect anything but a happy ending,” The Japan Times
“Every time you think you grasp what’s going on, Nakamura reminds you that you are not in control here. Perhaps you are never in control, ” The New York Times Book Review
As it often takes time for new works by Nakamura to become available in English translation (there has been almost a four-year gap since the publication of his Cult X in English in 2018) it is easy to overlook the increasing momentum building around this extremely talented author, and the growing enthusiasm about the body of his work.
And we can expect more: “If I think about this deeply, it is not that I am writing with someone in mind. I write what I want to write. That is the first principle. Generally, this is based on the issues, questions and topics I am thinking about at any given time…
My ideas come suddenly. But they often come while I am writing something. The idea for the next novel often comes to me while I am writing a novel. It is almost like the baton in a relay race. While I am writing I get an idea but decide it is for another novel, and I write the idea down in a different notebook…
It is like a relay,” is how he explains his creative process, which has generated more than 20 critically acclaimed works of fiction spanning: short-story collections; full-length novels; and newspaper serialisations, such as The Card Shark, Kahdo Shi, published in the Asahi Shimbun last year; and so far only one collection of essays, Freethinking, published in 2019.
It is an understatement to say that Nakamura, has been having a busy and exciting few years. In addition to this major new title coming out in English translation: he was awarded the Chunichi Bunka Award in May 2020 by the Chunichi Shimbun adding to the many awards he has already won in Japan and internationally; several of his works have been adapted for film in Japan; as well as serialisations of his works regularly appearing in major Japanese newspapers. A full bilingual list of all his works is available here.
My Annihilation: Publisher Description:
With My Annihilation, Fuminori Nakamura, master of literary noir, has constructed a puzzle box of a narrative in the form of a confessional diary that implicates its reader in a heinous crime.
Delving relentlessly into the darkest corners of human consciousness, My Annihilation interrogates the unspeakable thoughts all humans share that can be monstrous when brought to life, revealing with disturbing honesty the psychological motives of a killer.
Links to publisher websites: Penguin Random House, Soho Press
The English edition of My Annihilation, translated by Sam Bett, was published 11 January 2022
- About Red Circle:Red Circle Authors Limited is a specialist publishing and communications company that conducts bespoke projects on behalf of a carefully selected and curated group of leading Japanese authors. Red Circle showcases Japan’s best creative writing. For more information on Red Circle, Japanese literature, and Red Circle authors please visit: www.redcircleauthors.com.