The Power of Stories Saved Me
“When you read a novel, you might find something very true about yourself.”
Japanese writer Sayaka Murata shares her thoughts and ideas on using novels as a church, having 30 imaginary friends, and how she uses fragments of her subconscious when writing. Read more …
As a child, Sayaka Murata remembers living in an imaginary world: “I didn’t have that much time in reality here on Earth. She explains: “I had about 30 imaginary friends. They lived on a star, and I was always there with them.” Always scared of not fitting in as a kid, she only felt free when writing stories. “My world of daydreams or the power of stories saved me, so I was able to survive. And this same strength is in my protagonists.”
Sayaka Murata sketches out characters for her novels in a notebook. “I feel as if I’m creating an aquarium,” she says and elaborates: “When I do different things, everyone in the aquarium will start to move, and the story unfolds automatically. When this happens, I write it down.” Often, the protagonists of her novels will seem odd compared to the society they live in: “I like people who live with a different kind of ethic,” she says and continues: “In several of my short stories, I imagined such things.” In a short story, human hair can be used for a sweater; in the novel ‘Earthlings,’ the protagonist questions society from a young age – and the same goes for the main character, Keiko, in her famous novel ‘Convenience Store Woman.’ “Gender was irrelevant to my existence as a convenience store employee,” says Murata. “I have been placed in the world, especially in Japanese society, as a tool for writing novels. And the world Is experimenting by putting me in the Japanese context. So, I cut this into pieces and use it as material for my stories.”
“I am like a human laboratory where the feeling of anger is broken.” Murata herself says that she writes very scary and strange stories. ”When I write my stories, there are these boxes deep inside people that you shouldn’t open, but I have always wanted to open them one day.” She describes how she is looking for “something that will be dangerous to put into words.” Murata explains: “The real truth is hidden under a lid and has not yet become words. It’s more than curiosity. It’s something much more serious that I have wanted since my childhood. This wanting to know stimulates me and gives me the energy to write my novels.”
Sayaka Murata (b. 1979) is considered one of contemporary Japanese literature’s most striking prose writers. Her big literary breakthrough, ‘Convenience Store Woman,’ sold over one million copies in Japan alone. Irish writer Sally Rooney has called the novel “unsettling and totally unpredictable.” Murata has also published the book ‘Earthlings’ as well as a series of short stories in the collection ‘Life Ceremony.’ Sayaka Murata has won several prizes, including the Gunzo Prize for New Writers, The Mishima Yukio Prinze, the Noma Literary New Face Prize, and the Akutagawa Prize.
Sayaka Murata was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen in Denmark in July 202. The interpreter was Danish translator Mette Holm. She was also filmed in Tokyo, Japan, in October 2022.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard (Denmark) and Yudai Maruyama (Japan)
Edited and produced by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2022
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling, and Fritz Hansen.
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