The Last Samurai is a fictional book written by American writer Helen DeWitt. It was the writer’s first book and it sold in more than a dozen countries, with 100,000 copies sold in English. The book was published by Hyperion Books in September 2000. It has 544 pages written in the English Language. The novel was shortlisted for the 2002 International Dublin Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times’ 2001 Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. It was also longlisted for the 2001 Orange Prize for Fiction (it made the men’s jury’s controversial shortlist). In 2018, the Last Samurai was named by Vulture Magazine as the novel of the century.
The major characters in the book are Ludo (the main character), and Sibylla (Ludo’s mother).
The book starts with a prologue which outlines the early life of Sibylla. The book is about the relationship between Sibylla and her son, Ludo. Sibylla, a single mother, brings Ludo up somewhat unusually. He starts reading at two, reading Homer in the original Greek at three. He also read Hebrew, Japanese, Old Norse, and Inuit and advanced Mathematics. Ludo, without a father figure, was made to study Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which he comes to know by heart.
Ludo is a child prodigy, whose combination of genius and naivete guides him in a search for his missing father. Sibylla didn’t disclose his identity to Ludo even though she gives the reader a background as to her relations with Ludo’s father. The novel also describes Ludo from age three to six, and at age eleven. He had no formal schooling and the only social interaction he has came from his participation in Judo class in which his mother has enrolled him. Ludo then makes it a task to search for his potential father. He interacts with several adult male geniuses, testing each to see if they would make a good candidate for a father. When he finally meets his father, he sees him as undeserving due to his lack of genuine intellect. In the end, the boy has matured into a genius who has learned much about life and death.