Monday, 21 June 2010

The Unfertilized Egg

The Unfertilized Egg/Museiran, is a 2004 short story from Junko Hasegawa, translated by Philip Price, the central character/narrator, Moriko, is a woman who has just had her thirty sixth birthday, she observes that thirty six is a bad age for women. She's been having a relationship with her boss, Aono, who is married, and has a son, although the rest of the staff at her job aren't aware of this. Returning from a late night out with her friend Rei, she sprawls out on her bed and soon falls asleep, 'helter-skelter to the depths of unconsciousness, until I'm nothing more than sediment on the floor of my brain'. She dreams that she's in the supermarket, and a muscular arm with blackish-red skin passes her an egg, accidentally she breaks it, 'what the hell are you doing?', she hears an angry voice ask. She hides the pieces of broken egg in the water that they use to keep the tofu in and then promptly wakes up. Sitting in her small studio like flat Moriko contemplates how much Aono actually knows about her, they've been seeing each other for four years, so she thinks it's more than just a fling, he's overseas on business at the moment, he doesn't know that she lives 'like some desperate teenage runaway'. As Moriko recalls a conversation she had with her grandmother that for three generations in they're family mother's were born in the year of the horse and had the same blood type, B. We also hear of her anxiety of what her co-workers think of her, at thirty-six without a steady relationship, no children, the narrative slips into Moriko's obsession 'with first time' movies, as she works at a film importing company, although she receives the news that she is about to be made redundant, after thinking it over, adding up the factors, she comes to the realization that maybe Aono was the one who made the decision to sack her, she emails him but gets no reply.

She has more dreams of eggs, in them she's beginning to keep hold of them without breaking them. She goes for another night out with a friend, and when she returns to her building she stops, 'and look up at the dark, square window of my apartment. Of all the windows in the block, only mine looks like a gloomy cave - a reflection of the hopeless life of the woman who lives there', she doesn't want to go home in her apartment building, and her sense of not knowing where to go, depicts her sense of directionless. During another night out with colleagues she learns that a rumour is going around that Aono is away as he got another of her colleagues pregnant, Moriko ends up sleeping with Uchiki. Eggs feature increasingly as the story continues, and can be taken literally and also as a metaphor of Moriko's unfulfilled desires and aspirations, in one point Moriko dreams she is in a torture scene from medieval France, tied to a pole, thinking she's about to be pelted by stones, she realizes the crowd are throwing eggs and she ends up covered in yellow yolk. This is an at times surreal and wry story about the anxieties faced by a woman approaching middle age, caught between facing unemployment, and also suffering from the pangs of the desire to have a child.

The Unfertilized Egg/ Museiran can be found in - Inside and Other Short Fiction.



Anonymous said...

This is a great collection of short stories. I recommend anyone who is interested in contemporary Japanese literature, or Japanese feminism, to check it out, as "The Fertilized Egg" is not the only gem to be found inside.

me. said...

I'm reading my way through the rest of the stories in this collection at the moment,and so far they've all been really great.