Life Ceremony

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Title: Life Ceremony

Writer: Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Publishing House:Grove Press

Date of Publication: July 5th 2022

Rating: 5 stars

‘’A hundred years later, what would our bodies be used for? Would we be chair legs or sweaters or clock hands? Would we be used for a longer time after our deaths than the time we’d been alive?’’

Sayaka Murata’s stories defy genre, time and place. We are transported to an alternate reality and we move on to an almost psychedelic future before we return to contemporary Japan. The characters of her stories are women who are burdened – although they’d never confess it – by a desperate need to belong, to be liked. However, Murata’s version and depiction of what we would define as ‘’Love’’ is not only highly arbitrary but dubious, suspicious, oppressive. It is a mirror of society’s projections, artificial aspirations, a strange kind of idolatry that leads nowhere.

Sayaka Murata marries the abstract, the eerie and the mundane and proves she is one of the most exceptional writers of our time.

A First-Rate Material: A couple is planning a wedding but the future spouses don’t really see eye-to-eye in a story that depicts a time when it is acceptable, fashionable even, to make all kinds of objects from dead humans.

A Magnificent Spread: In a humorously absurd, yet poignant story the woman is about to meet her fiance’s husband and his sister is there to help her with the dinner table. But the eating habits of the diners are strange. Too strange…An interesting commentary on how eating is a product of each culture and its significance in the forming of our identity.

A Summer Night’s Kiss/ Two’s Family: Another lady who has had her two children through artificial insemination contemplates kissing and sex while her best friend, her lifelong companion, is fighting for her life. The memories of society’s prejudices are still painfully acute. Such a moving, tender story!

The Time of the Large Star: A girl and a boy meet in a land where the moon is adored, the sun is hated and sleep does not exist.

Poochie: If you have readEarthlings, Murata’s writing won’t come as a surprise. This is a (very short) story of a girl that decides to have a middle-aged man as a pet.

Life Ceremony: This is a world where sex for pleasure is frowned upon. Where pregnancy is a result of insemination during a ‘’Life Ceremony’’. Will women have to produce the humans that will secure the existence of our species. When mourners consume the flesh of the deceased to conceive a child. This story is strange and twisted and beautiful, but proceed with caution because you may find it deeply disturbing.

Body Magic: Two teenage girls explore relationships and sexuality, ignoring the preconceived notions of their classmates.

Lover on the Breeze: A beautiful blue curtain watches a girl falling in and out of love.

Puzzle: A young woman newly arrived in Tokyo sees and experiences the functions of our bodies in a vastly different way than her colleagues.

‘’I could hear the voices of some people outside, but they were speaking in a foreign language, so I didn’t understand what they were saying. As I listened, the voices began to resemble the calls of animals. In my mind they overlapped with the night presences I had sensed on the other side of the torn window screens during those childhood summers, and before I knew it, I had fallen asleep.’’

Eating the City: The hunting for weeds in Tokyo and the simple act of eating become metaphors for navigating and experiencing life in the metropolis, for the memories of childhood.

Hatchling: A bride-to-be narrates the evolution of her five “personalities” that were created out of her desperate need to be liked by everyone. We all develop “faces” we deem appropriate to every interaction but Is there a real ‘’us’’ buried deep inside us or are we truly vacant?

‘’Look, at this point in time, there are five me’s existence. I can’t choose which one to be by myself. So I want you to choose which one you want.’’

Many thanks to Grove Press and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.