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Konbini ningenの表紙画像

FICTION

Konbini ningen

[trans. Convenience Store Woman]

By Murata Sayaka

Bungeishunjū (Bunshun Bunko), 2018. 176 pp. ¥580. ISBN 978-4-16-791130-0.

Also published in: Chinese (traditional and simplified characters), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Thai

Japanese convenience stores, konbini, are open 24 hours a day, selling food, drink, alcohol, cigarettes, newspapers, books, and even underwear. They have ATMs and photocopiers and act as pickup points for parcels. Operating within extremely limited space, staff members strictly adhere to rules laid out precisely in manuals to serve customers. It is now difficult to imagine how Japanese people would live without konbini. Yet literary works have rarely explored the thoughts and feelings of the people who work there.

    This book may have the honor of being the first work of literature on convenience stores. The protagonist is a woman who has worked part-time for nearly 20 years in one of these stores. The people around her regard spending such a length of time in this kind of stopgap job as not “normal” in itself. But having been unable to adapt to society since early childhood, she felt at home for the first time in a konbini and finds a sense of fulfillment in a job where she is constantly under pressure to function as part of an efficient mechanism. For her the “normal” world is not hers to live in.

    “Gender, age, and nationality don’t matter. By wearing the same uniform, everyone is equal as a convenience store clerk.” With its paradoxical vision of the convenience store as utopia and its sharp criticism of the present state of society concealed behind a humorous narrative voice, this work presents a vision of the future of Japan. (NK)
Konbini ningenの表紙画像

By Murata Sayaka

Murata Sayaka

Born in Chiba Prefecture in 1979. Selected for the Excellent Works of the Gunzō New Writers Award for her 2003 debut “Junyū” [Breast-Feeding]. Won the Noma Prize for New Writers in 2009 for Gin’iro no uta [Silver Song], the Mishima Yukio Prize in 2013 for Shiroiro no machi no, sono hone no taion no [The Heat of the Bones of a White City], and the Akutagawa Prize for Konbini ningen in 2016. Other works include Tadaima tobira [The Door to Home], Satsujin shussan [Giving Birth to Murder], and Shōmetsu sekai [Vanished World].

Translation rights inquiries

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