Manage episode 358337746 series 2381791
Every year when summer rolls around I take a break from reading new Australian novels and take a tangent into literature that I often can’t find the time for throughout the year.
This summer I reignited my love of Japanese literature and decided I wanted to find some new works that challenged my understanding.
Now I’m a sucker for a talking cat and so I want to mention Sôsuke Natsukawa’s whimsical novel The Cat Who Saved Books. Truly though, the novel I read that shook me and really challenged my thinking is Sayaka Murata’s Earthlings.
Natsuki Sasamoto is certain she’s a wizard. She’s certain she’s not a part of the world of her family and developing her powers seems a sensible way to escape their world.
On their annual trip to the families home in the mountains Natsuki’s cousin Yuu confides that he is in fact an alien. It’s a fact Natsuki takes in her stride, confident Yuu is from the same planet as her plush Hedgehog Piyyut. Natsuki and Yuu pledge their love to each other and survive their lives in the real world on the promise that they will reunite at the family’s annual gathering where they will be picked up by a ship from Yuu’s home planet.
Like so many promises of childhood, Natsuki and Yuu are not able to fulfill their love and are instead ripped apart by their respective families.
Natsuki grows up with her cousin, a distant and unspoken memory. But the trauma of her childhood has shaped her irrevocably. In Natsuki’s estimation of the world, everyone is a component in a machine built for breeding and maintaining the status quo.
Natsuki enters a celibate marriage with a man equally suspicious of society and is superficially happy. Until she and her husband embark on a trip that sees her return to the family’s mountain home where Yuu is now living.
Earthlings is a strange and disquieting novel. It’s a kind of social dystopia showing us a familiar world of modern cosmopolitan life morphed into a surreal organic machine. I was so beguiled by this idea that I found myself wondering if there is a term for something like the opposite of anthropomorphism.
Fun fact, there is; Chremamorphism.
Earthlings is a thought provoking novel. That doesn’t feel adequate…
This is a novel about social isolation and the ways dominant narrative can seriously marginalise and traumatise people who do not fit the (so-called) typical mold.
I’m going to throw a trigger warning on here for potential readers. There are some deeply troubling scenes in the book. It would be too much to spoil these moments but definitely go in with your eyes open.
For me I found my curiosity more than rewarded with a novel that flips our sense of social cohesion and opens up a world of dangerous wonder.
Discovering Earthlings has opened me up to Sayaka Murata’s writing and now I just need to find another free stretch of time to explore her other works.