by Emi Yagi
Paperback, 224 pages
Published by Harvill Secker (2022)
A prizewinning, thrillingly subversive debut novel about a woman in Japan who avoids harassment at work by perpetuating, for nine months and beyond, the lie that she’s pregnant
When thirty-four-year-old Ms. Shibata gets a new job in Tokyo to escape sexual harassment at her old one, she finds that, as the only woman at her new workplace–a company that manufactures cardboard tubes–she is expected to do all the menial tasks. One day she announces that she can’t clear away her colleagues’ dirty cups–because she’s pregnant and the smell nauseates her. The only thing is . . . Ms. Shibata is not pregnant.
Pregnant Ms. Shibata doesn’t have to serve coffee to anyone. Pregnant Ms. Shibata isn’t forced to work overtime. Pregnant Ms. Shibata rests, watches TV, takes long baths, and even joins an aerobics class for expectant mothers. But pregnant Ms. Shibata also has a nine-month ruse to keep up. Helped along by towel-stuffed shirts and a diary app on which she can log every stage of her “pregnancy,” she feels prepared to play the game for the long haul. Before long, though, the hoax becomes all-absorbing, and the boundary between her lie and her life begins to dissolve.
A surreal and wryly humorous cultural critique, Diary of a Void is bound to become a landmark in feminist world literature.
About the author
Emi Yagi is an editor at a Japanese women’s magazine. She was born in 1988 and lives in Tokyo. Diary of a Void is her first novel; it won the Dazai Osamu Prize, awarded annually to the best debut work of fiction.