22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Sayaka Murata

Portrait Sayaka Murata
© Takuya Sugiyama

Japanese writer Sayaka Murata was born in Inzai in 1979. She became fascinated with science fiction and detective novels and made her first attempts at writing as a child. After she finished middle school in Inzai, her family moved to Tokyo. There she studied at Tamagawa University.
Her debut novel »Junyū« (2005; tr: Breastfeeding) won the Gunzō Young Writers Award. In her works, she draws on, among other things, observations made during her years of working parttime in a konbini, a 24-hour convenience store. Her protagonists are often characterized by nonconformity, whether in terms of the gender role ascribed to them or their social position. They also tend to be outsiders in an environment whose values and norms seem unacceptable to them. In »Konbini ningen« (2016; Eng. »Convenience Store Woman«, 2018), for example, a female student, irritated by her peers, finds true fulfillment in conforming outwardly to the world around her. At her job in a konbini, all interactions are reduced to a tolerable level for her, until a rebellious man arrives and turns her outlook on life upside down. The book was a bestseller in Japan, won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, and has been translated into more than thirty languages. The themes of asexuality and voluntary as well as involuntary celibacy, especially within marriage are also core themes in »Shōmetsu sekai« (2015; tr: Dwindling World). Murata is also known for her frank depiction of adolescent sexuality in works such as »Gin’iro no uta« (2009; tr: Silver Song) and »Shiro-iro no machi no, sono hone no taion no« (2012; tr: Of Bones, Of Body Heat, Of Whitening City). Her novel »Satsujin Shussan« (2014; tr: The Murder Births), which was awarded the Mishima Prize and the Special Prize at the Sense of Gender Awards, depicts a dystopian society shaped by artificial reproductive technologies. In her most recent work, »Chikyū seijin« (2018; Eng. »Earthlings«, 2020), the first-person narrator Natsuki, who was abused by a teacher as a child, treated like a stranger by her family, and had only her cousin Yu as a friend, is able to break free from her traumas in later years. Together with her husband, with whom she has entered into a relationship without sex or children, and her rediscovered cousin, she flees from the clutches of the »human factory« of the »earthlings« to the old family farmhouse, where in one of the rooms silkworms used to form cocoons. Isolated from the outside world, she discovers an extremely new, almost fantastic way of life outside all social conventions in the acceptance of her otherness. »Sayaka Murata is one of a number of young East Asian authors whose works focus on female self-experience in patriarchal systems,« wrote the »SZ«.
The author lives in Tokyo.