“Her profession’s her religion, her sin is her lifelessness,” wrote singer-songwriter Bob Dylan of the tragic heroine Ophelia in Desolation Row.
That is how one would possibly consider Keiko Furukura, the 36-year-old eponymous virgin of Japanese author Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman, whose chief considerations in life aren’t husband-hunting, however the best way to greatest show the brand new rice ball flavour or promote out all of the rooster skewers on promotion. But there isn’t a sin in her devotion, solely transcendent bliss.
Murata dissects the strictures of her nation’s society on this slender, sharp novel, with translator Ginny Tapley Takemori rigorously conveying the cadences of her deadpan humour.
Keiko has been working on the Hiiromachi Smile Mart since she graduated. Her friends have gone on to marry and lift households, however she has sallied on, smiling and single, in her 24-hour area.
Keiko is an uncommon girl and never merely by the social requirements of a Japan threatened by rising celibacy and low delivery charges.
She would possibly uncharitably be described as sociopathic: episodes in her childhood embrace suggesting to her mom that they grill and eat a dead chook and breaking apart a schoolyard battle by hitting a participant on the top with a spade.
As an grownup, she cobbles her behaviour collectively from these round her like an alien would possibly copy a local species to mix in, borrowing the speech patterns of a bubbly youthful colleague or her supervisor’s trend sense.
The retailer guide is her information on “how to be a normal person”. She subsists nearly totally on meals from the shop.
CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN
By Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Portobello Books/ Paperback/ 163 pages/$22.95/ Books Kinokuniya/ four stars
Unfortunately, her household and mates are over-invested in her spinsterhood. In an try and fend off their infinite recriminations, Keiko decides to enter a wedding of comfort with Shiraha, a boorish colleague who despises the shop and harasses the ladies in it.
Shiraha, like Keiko, is an outsider, however in a much more damaging means.
He hails from that tribe of misogynist man-children aggrieved that girls need nothing to do with them. Though his immense dislikeability is critical to the narrative, it’s exhausting to swallow.
This is essentially as a result of, regardless of her utter emotional detachment and copycat character, Keiko is partaking, presumably in the best way that the clean slate of Hello Kitty’s face has made that mouthless cat one of many world’s most beloved cartoons.
The reader feels Keiko’s profound, if incomprehensible, happiness at being a cog within the machine, and frustration in the direction of the abusive means Shiraha treats her, even when she herself is incapable of such emotion.
For all of the enjoyable she pokes at social conventions, Murata appears bored with considering the broader implications of a world that would create a Keiko, who not solely personifies Karl Marx’s principle of alienation – by which capitalist society estranges the employee from his self – however embraces this state as the head of pleasure.
What some would possibly contemplate a post-capitalist hellhole, she has painted as a fluorescent utopia. But as happily-ever-afters go, it’s actually refreshing.
If you want this, learn: Strange Weather In Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (Portobello Books, 2014, $26.24, Books Kinokuniya). Tsukiko, a lonely girl in her late 30s, meets her former high-school trainer, who is at the least 30 years her senior, in a bar. As the seasons cross and so they hold assembly to share food and drinks, they kind a relationship.