Life Ceremony

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Pub Date 14 Jul 2022 | Archive Date Not set

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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.

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...

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ISBN 9781783787371
PRICE £12.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 164 members

Featured Reviews

Have read Sayaka Murata before and seeing another of her books in Netgalley shelf prompt me to read it. This book takes you on a whirlwind journey making you feel variety of emotions, her stories are but unconventional and weird but they are the perfect amount of weird I appreciate. Wonderful book!

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Life Ceremony is a completely weird, out-there collection of short stories, with themes spanning death, social acceptance, food and human relationships.

I'm not usually a huge fan of short stories but I really enjoyed this book - though it's not for the faint-hearted at times, as it is quite gruesome.

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What a wild ride! Definitely not for the faint-hearted and be prepared for very gruesome descriptions. Still, very gripping and fast-pacing short stories that aim to leave you wandering about what's normal.

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Sayaka Murata is a genre on her own. She defies the shackles of what is and what isn't supposed to be and the end product is always sensational. I literally gasped when I recieved this arc because I heard nothing but praise for her previous work "Convenience Store Woman" and although due to the lack of time I wasn't able to pick it up, I am grateful I got this arc to join the hype and yes, Murata's writing is no joke. Poetic, hilarious and an amusing mixture of the mundane and the absurd, the short stories definitely make you wonder how unreal, eerie and yet creative the author is. My favourites were definitely "First-Rate Material", "Life Ceremony" and "Lover on the breeze". A quote that stuck with me is "I mean, normal is a type of madness, isn't it? I think it's just that the only madness society allows is called normal".

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Life Ceremony is a collection of short stories that is every bit as off-kilter and visceral as her novel Earthlings. There are lots of innards, lots of food, lots of sex (or no sex at all), lots of bodily fluids. Sometimes all at the same time…

Twisted and brilliant.

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Twelve stories from Japan, tales about love, food, relationships, life and death. Sayaka Murata offers a mix of stories that raise questions about how we live, what we consider acceptable and more than once goes beyond the red line of our comfort feeling. It is not always easy to follow the characters, to dive into Murata’s world and not to be appalled but to remain open minded. The author does not specify if the plots are set in today’s Japan, at some point of the future or in an alternative reality, it remains for the reader to decide. Having read “Earthlings” and “Convenience Store Woman” I already knew that the author has a talent to reaching my emotional limits and this she succeeds again with her stories.

Some of the stories left a deeper impact on me than others. Among them the one that also provided the title for the short story collection, “Life Ceremony”. The idea of eating human flesh was beyond my imagination even though I liked how the protagonist was drawn and her emotions transmitted.

Food in general seems to be a topic in Japanese literature, after recently having read “Butter” by Asako Yuzuki, I already had the impression that the sensual aspect is something that plays an important role, maybe because a highly controlled society does not grant itself the luxury of such feelings.

Relationships, types of families also are touched upon several times, can two women qualify as family and can a couple experience love without ever having intercourse? The stories invite you to ponder about many questions and to scrutinize your position and attitude when it comes to the deviation of the common.

A wide range of short insights into lives that move unnoticed among people even though they are at the fringe if their nerves.

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Japanese fiction is basically some of the greatest fiction in the world at the moment. Authors like Yoko Ogawa have really brought out the shine in the strange whilst also borrowing writing style from the Golden Age of modern Japanese literature (authors such as: Yukio Mishima and Junichiro Tanazaki come to mind). Japanese literature is not only on the rise, it is also on the change as well. Moving away from the once twisted humanist storylines, it makes its way into the modern day with Sayaka Murata's Earthlings, and Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police. I have found that Sayaka Murata's newest text, a book of short stories called Life Ceremony, follows this brand new tradition that I sure hope to see more of.
In Sayaka Murata's twisted style which earned her the reputation of one of Japan's great modern writers in the minds of literature nerds everywhere, Life Ceremony has twelve short stories. Each of these stories has some sort of strange extended metaphor. The titular story, something uncomfortable and raw, is read with brief moments of fear and disgust. But, it makes sense at the end. The story Life Ceremony is about eating the flesh of the dead to increase the rates of conception. I found this story incredibly relevant as Japan's own conception rate seems to be dropping as we speak. Is this Sayaka Murata giving us a lesson in life and death and what it means to replace life with life? An absolutely brilliantly written story, this echoes the messed up nature of her previous and powerful Earthlings.
When it comes to themes, Sayaka Murata is never short of ideas. Everything from modern Japanese themes to more international ideas are discussed but, all of them are relevant as ever to our lives today. The story Eating the City deals with the idea of 'not enough resources' for the population we have as an underlying message. The story is about foraging and yet, we see the deep discomfort of the people in that situation as one of very first points of recognition. The way we connect with her stories is that we recognise the deep-seated fear of the characters, and yet their inability to act against it. The other thing we can recognise is the exact opposite. We recognise the normalacy of the characters in these extreme and rather harsh situations. It makes Sayaka Murata fit into both sides of the coin.
Sayaka Murata's style has always made an impression on me ever since I read Convenience Store Woman. I think her writing style is extremely deep but the one thing I love is the intense amounts of symbolism. Symbolism seems to be a big thing in Japanese Literature with one of the most famous symbolist writers being Haruki Murakami and his symbol of the cat. But, Sayaka Murata does something slightly different. She doesn't use one symbol to symbolise things, instead she uses many symbols that all fit into the same category, for example: the act of eating, foraging and then we have cannibalism over a couple of stories in order to symbolise the same idea: requirements for survival. This message of 'requirements for survival' however, has a different meaning in each story. I think that is extremely clever.
In conclusion, Sayaka Murata may just be Japan's next great writer next to Yoko Ogawa. Her writing is uncomfortable, symbolic and relevant and she is able to write the reader's fear into the text so well you will not even notice yourself becoming afraid. It is a brilliant set of short stories and as her debut anthology of short stories, I think it is an incredible effort.

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"Why not enjoy yourself in this momentary world of lies?"

Much like Muratas last book, this collection of short stories deals with the hardships of modern life and then adds the extreme circumstances. I loved Muratas last novel and I loved this one too, every story is the height of crazy and much like Earthlings this will have an instant Marmite reaction (you'll either love it or you'll hate it).

I find her way of interpreting birth, eating, sex and death, in these intense stories, ask way do we have such a visceral reaction to such things. Whatever it is, it's certainly not forgettable!

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I was so excited when I was approved for this review copy!
Sayaka Murata is an incredible and thoroughly enjoyable author. I adored her two previous publications which were both five star reads for me
This was no different. Her ability to weave the unreal into the ordinary is like no other. I loved in particular the short story with the Earthlings throwback. The Life Ceremony story was completely bizarre yet believable and also I enjoyed the first story about human hair/bone etc.
I'm so happy I got to read this and I would recommend this to anyone! Well, if you're willing to leave reality at the door and take her writing at face value. Loved it!

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Such an original and thought-provoking new read from an amazing author.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for letting me access an advance copy of this book in exchange for my feedback.

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What's the book about?

Twelve unusual short stories about family and friendship, sex and intimacy, belonging and individuality.

My thoughts:

I am blown away by the way Murata's mind works. Who else could make such a horrid act as cannibalism sound poetic and dare I say, to some extent even compelling. I enjoyed almost all the stories and can't wait to see this one becoming a bestseller (it definitely will!).

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If Sayaka Murata didn’t write a book that made me want to crawl into a hole and hide, it wouldn’t be Sayaka Murata. These short stories will be sure to have your skin crawling. It’s a comfortable balance between popular appeal of Convenience Store Woman and horror filled extremes of Earthlings. Each is different yet draws together a similar line for me of how far comfort boundaries could be pushed in writing. It doesn’t disappoint and I’ll be sure to get a copy to add to my collection once it’s out.

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