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Shibumi: A Novel Paperback – May 10, 2005
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“One hell of a pleasure to read.” —Washington Post
“It’s hard to imagine a more nearly perfect spy story.” —Milwaukee Journal
From the Inside Flap
Nicholai Hel is the world's most wanted man. Born in Shanghai during the chaos of World War I, he is the son of an aristocratic Russian mother and a mysterious German father and is the protege of a Japanese Go master. Hel survived the destruction of Hiroshima to emerge as the world's most artful lover and its most accomplished--and well-paid--assassin. Hel is a genius, a mystic, and a master of language and culture, and his secret is his determination to attain a rare kind of personal excellence, a state of effortless perfection known only as "shibumi.
Now living in an isolated mountain fortress with his exquisite mistress, Hel is unwillingly drawn back into the life he'd tried to leave behind when a beautiful young stranger arrives at his door, seeking help and refuge. It soon becomes clear that Hel is being tracked by his most sinister enemy--a supermonolith of international espionage known only as the Mother Company. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other . . . "shibumi.
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Top Customer Reviews
Any effort - i.e. Satori to "cover the lost period " is unnecessary.
The book is perfect, the characters strong and well drawn - especially the bad guys.
I love the book and when my Kindle ran out of juice and turned itself off I found my place in my ancient book copy and continued reading.
It is not for the squeamish or sensitive.
I recommend this book to any adult.
As a few others have mentioned, you have to get past the pedestrain genre set-up at the beginning and accept some prejudices of the time the book was written.
The descriptions of the Basque country and character, and of world-class cave exploration figure deeply into the plot. The former provides comic relief and humanity, the latter takes your breathe away, speeds up your heart, you feel yourself there and you want to get out. I used the term quirky because there are so many cultures touched upon, from China and Japan during and after WWII, to the US and Great Britain of the 1970's, wripped from the pages (of today? - CIA, NSA, shadow governments,) and with each it is as if the style of writing is adapted to suit the author's sentiments towards each subject. I perceived this as intentional, hence my experience of the book as brilliant while suitably lacking in perfection. A singular read.
How incredible it seems that this was published in 1979 -- and presumably written several years earlier, in (mostly American) English. "Zahar hitzak, zuhur hitzak." (Old words, wise words.) We are the world, but our world is still victim of the same enemies.
I still have the same Weltanschauung after reading Shibumi, but now I have a stronger sense of sharing awareness of injustices with millions of others, readers and writers and potential activists. This is a novel not about an overendowed assassin but about a hypersensitive activist.
sic semper tyrannis.
My only complaint with the main character, is that he is a product of that period's characteristic drooling over eastern culture. The author has him adopt Japanese customs, then uses him to condescendingly mock all other cultures.
The plot is generally interesting, though the author brings it to a full stop for over 50 pages, right smack in the middle of the story, for an excruciatingly detailed description of cave exploration.
This book is worth the read for devoted fans of the genre, because of the conceptualization behind the main character; be advised though, you really have to Gringo through the middle pages.