Original language: japanese

Original title: Konbini ningen (convenience store human)

Translation: Marina Bornas

Year of publication: 2016

Valuation: highly recommended

Written by the woman of the year 2016 (according to Vogue Japan), “Saleswoman” tells the story of Keiko Furukura, a 36-year-old woman (take note of her age) who works at a Seven-Eleven-style convenience store in Tokyo. For more references, see the reels and tik-toks about these Japanese combines, shown as if they were kawaii food theme parks.

In Mexico, and I imagine it is similar throughout Latin America, the people who work in these types of stores come from diverse backgrounds. However, in Japan, the position of sevens clerk is occupied mainly by high school or university students (and more recently, immigrants from developing countries), who combine studies with their part-time work. Taking care of the combini box is seen only as a temporary job, no one thinks about making a career or achieving professional development by organizing refrigerators or taking inventories. Additionally, as it is a job that is in constant direct contact with clients (who can be horrible people), it is stressful and highly demanding (fortunately, in Japan they don’t have to worry about violent robberies in the middle of the night. One of lime…).

This is where our heroine comes in, Keiko, an atypical protagonist, considered a social anomaly by her family and friends, who finds meaning in the routine and rules of her job. Although the novel does not specify it, it is evident that Keiko is on the autism spectrum. Focused on her interiority and lacking a defined personality, she adopts the behavior of her colleagues with the purpose of “fitting in.” Her predilection for routine and order is so marked that, in one episode, we find her organizing products in a store where she does not work. Her narrative highlights her lack of emotional reciprocity and her difficulty in adapting her behavior to different situations. Her behavior, although atypical, is particularly useful in a rigidly structured work environment. Furthermore, the novel highlights her asexuality, a notable aspect in the context of a conservative society like Japan.

I don’t know to what extent the author describes herself (the novel is based on her experiences working in a convenience store), but she has an outstanding ability to generate empathy and understanding for the protagonist (despite the fact that Keiko does not see herself). herself as a victim). Murata clearly and precisely writes the atmosphere of the convenience store and its goings-on (a description that might be a bit excessive for those who don’t live in Japan, and unnecessary for those who do). Her style is simple, with a tone that oscillates between the comic and the melancholic, investigating the complexities and contradictions of modern Japanese society, mainly the role of those who do not want (or cannot) lead a “normal” life.

Although “Saleswoman” It is an outstanding work, there are certain negative aspects to point out. One of them is the representation and development of the main character, Keiko. Although her unique behavior and mindset add depth to the character, some readers may find that the novel does not sufficiently explore Keiko’s emotional and psychological complexities, leaving her somewhat flat and enigmatic. I think that the fact that her neurodivergence is not directly mentioned, and therefore her behavior is not approached from that perspective, may be an attempt by the author not to pigeonhole the protagonist under a medical diagnosis, which would diminish the weight of the story. his attempt to make us empathize with people who lead unconventional lives. On the other hand, the novel, focused intensely on the daily life of the convenience store, could be perceived by some as monotonous or lacking narrative dynamism, limiting its scope to a very specific setting without fully exploring other facets of society. Japanese. Finally, the subtle social criticism that Murata attempts to convey may not be fully appreciated by readers unfamiliar with the subtleties and cultural norms of Japan, causing the message to be lost or misinterpreted (for example, a foreign reader might reinforce certain negative stereotypes that people have of the Japanese). Considering all of the above, I think it is an essential book for anyone interested in 21st century Japanese literature, and for those who are not, don’t worry, it is a little book that can be read in one sitting.

Use “Saleswoman” won the Akutagawa Prize in 2016, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Japan.

Signed: Alain Rios

Source: https://unlibroaldia.blogspot.com/2024/01/colaboracion-la-dependienta-de-sayaka.html

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