Life Ceremony

Sayaka Murata

Life Ceremony
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Life Ceremony

Sayaka Murata

From the author of international bestseller Convenience Store Woman comes a collection of short fiction: weird, out of this world and like nothing you’ve read before.


An engaged couple falls out over the husband’s dislike of clothes and objects made from human materials; a young girl finds herself deeply enamoured with the curtain in her childhood bedroom; people honour their dead by eating them and then procreating. Published in English for the first time, this exclusive edition also includes the story that first brought Sayaka Murata international acclaim: ‘A Clean Marriage’, which tells the story of a happily asexual couple who must submit to some radical medical procedures if they are to conceive a longed-for child.

Mixing taboo-breaking body horror with feminist revenge fables, old ladies who love each other and young women finding empathy and transformation in unlikely places, Life Ceremony is a wild ride to the outer edges of one of the most original minds in contemporary fiction.

Review

The genius behind Convenience Store Woman and Earthlings, Sayaka Murata, is back with Life Ceremony, a collection of short stories that can only be described as bizarre yet captivating. Murata fans and newcomers alike are in for a treat and will be taken on unexpected journeys as they work their way through the 12 stories that make up this first collection of hers to be translated into English. In these stories, Murata explores the themes of family, relationships, sex, tradition and our search for acceptance, all in her unique, unsettling and at times morbid style.

In ‘A First-Rate Material’ we are introduced to a soon-to-be married couple who are at odds about the use of human bodies for clothing, accessories and homewares. ‘Poochie’ tells the story of two school friends, their pet and the bond that is formed over a secret. The title story, ‘Life Ceremony’, presents a society where funerals have been replaced with the ritual of eating the dead and then coupling off. While Murata’s visions are often unimaginable in our current society, other stories present us with realities that are far more relatable. In ‘Hatchling’, we meet a person who has assumed many personalities in their desperate attempt to fit in, and in ‘Two’s Family’, an unconventional family arrangement – one that many friends have dreamed of – withstands the scrutiny of a conservative society.

It can feel strange to say that I ‘enjoyed’ these stories given the macabre nature of many of the themes. But that is perhaps the reason why they are so captivating. There is a balance between the unusual and the mundane, and for those brief moments where you are lost in the pages, Murata’s stories take you out of reality and let you indulge in the discomfort of the worlds she has created.

Megan Wood is the HR manager at Readings

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