地球星人 / Earthlings
As a child, Natsuki doesn’t fit into her family. Her parents favor her sister, and her best friend is a plush toy hedgehog named Piyyut who has explained to her that he has come from the planet Popinpobopia on a special quest to help her save the Earth. Each summer, Natsuki counts down the days until her family drives into the mountains of Nagano to visit her grandparents in their wooden house in the forest, a place that couldn’t be more different from her grey commuter town. One summer, her cousin Yuu confides to Natsuki that he is an extraterrestrial and that every night he searches the sky for the spaceship that might take him back to his home planet. Natsuki wonders if she might be an alien too.
Back in her city home, Natsuki is scolded or ignored and even preyed upon by a young teacher at her cram school. As she grows up in a hostile, violent world, she consoles herself with memories of her time with Yuu and discovers a surprisingly potent inner power. Natsuki seems forced to fit into a society she deems a “baby factory,” but even as a married woman she wonders if there is more to this world than the mundane reality everyone else seems to accept. The answers are out there, and Natsuki has the power to find them.
Dreamlike, sometimes shocking, and always strange and wonderful, Earthlings asks what it means to be happy in a stifling world, and cements Sayaka Murata’s status as a master chronicler of the outsider experience and our own uncanny universe.
Amazon (paperback bunko)
The repeat-club for コンビニ人間 (by the same author) was my first introduction to the Intermediate Book Club. It was such an enjoyable read that a few of us moved on to another one of her works (殺人出産), which I’ve enjoyed even more! So now I am nominating one of her more recent works here, because I want everyone to know how excellent Sayaka Murata’s books are for intermediate Japanese learners. Why? First and foremost, because her writing style is straightforward. The vocabulary isn’t very flowery and the sentences aren’t very long and complicated. That doesn’t mean the books lack depth, however. Both works I have read so far have given rise to lively discussions not just about the Japanese but also about the contents themselves. It has been very motivating to read not just for the sake of Japanese practice, but also because I am dying to see what happens next. I have nominated this particular book because it is one of her more recent works (and thus pretty well-known) and because there is an English translation available, which might make it easier for some to read along.
Pros and Cons for the Book Club
- Straightforward writing style
- Plenty of food for discussion
- Modern Akutagawa Prize-winning author
- English translation available
First Three Pages of Chapter One
How much effort would you need to read this book?
- No effort at all
- Minimal effort
- Moderate effort
- Significant effort
- So much effort my head might explode
- I don’t know