Life Ceremony

Translation: Ginny Tapley Takemori


After the high-profile premiere of the Akutagawa Prize-winning Convenience Store Woman (which even got a Polish translation – Dziewczyna z konbini) and even wilder Earthlings, Sayaka Murata returns to the English reader with the latest collection of short stories, where he also does not slow down.

Life Ceremony consists of 12 grotesque stories – a mixture of humor and horror for which it might be difficult to find a common denominator, but those who have already read Murata’s works will find familiar topics: social exclusion, peer pressure, loneliness or choosing to live going against the tide. And all this in a funny and sometimes slightly disgusting way. And it is worth mentioning here: Life Ceremony is definitely closer in mood to Earthlings than Dziewczyna z Konbini.

The titlular story is a vision of Japan in several dozen years, where it is normal to eat the meat of the deceased during special ceremonies resenbling what we call a wake. Usually, the participants of such a meeting later pair up and mate. From there it only gets more bizarre and grotesque. Perhaps the most interesting for me was “Hatchling”, a story about a girl who created a different personality for each group of friends, when the time of her wedding came, she had no idea how she was supposed to behave in front of all those different guests.

"It was her nature to never feel very hungry. She always felt that she was just pouring food into the black hole in her face, as though she were merely a garbage bin for kitchen waste"

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