I read the book by Fuminori Nakamura out of curiosity of how pickpockets work. It’s intriguing because there must be great skill applied with great mindfulness; albeit misplaced mindfulness. Thus did the Buddha teach of Right Mindfulness; not any arbitrary mindfulness abused for crimes and breaking of precepts.
‘The Thief’ is a tale of how, despite knowing it is wrong, a man sticks to his picking ways. As often the case, pickpockets are eventually recognised by others in the ‘profession’, as they are the ones looking at strangers and their deeds with greater scrutiny. He gets roped in for a crime, which he becomes scapegoated for.
Yes, it’s the age-old issue of whether there is honour among thieves. The protagonist thief in question is not all evil though, which is the case for everyone. He tries to save some poorer pickpocketing folks. Is this some honour among thieves? And he devises an escape of sorts.
When the reader starts to root for him, as someone of lesser evil, it feels slightly criminal. Here’s the spoiler… In the end, as his blood trickles away from being stabbed, he imagines picking on, from the rich overseas, stealing to give to the poor, to become a ‘true pickpocket’. But it was a Robin Hood dream and rationalisation for misdeeds too little too late. Good cautionary tale – on how not to get picked, and don’t ever pick!