Diary of A Void by Emi Yagi

It’s so hard to wrap my head around it. It’s so weird to think of you being pregnant. I mean, I’ve never heard you say anything about love or marriage. That’s why it was such a surprise to find out that you’ve been…getting out there, you know? Having a life.

p. 74

A void can mean so many things. An emptiness. A longing. A life.

It could also mean “avoid.” Like what Shibata does to keep from cleaning up the coffee cups which have gone cold, and are filled with cigarette butts smashed into the liquid, so that they smell terrible. It is expected that a woman should clean up the mess, and so she says she can’t because she’s pregnant.

At first, Shibata stuffs her clothing with padding to carry on her ruse. But, as the story progresses, so does her pregnancy, such that near the end, even the doctor is pointing out the baby at the ultra sound.

Of course, there is no baby. And so, the novel raises many questions, like: what is the role of women in society; do doctors even know what they are doing; how does what we tell ourselves effect what we believe?

Shibata tours the factory where she works, which makes hollow cores to be used as paper toweling tubes, for example. As she watches them turn out, we read this paragraph:

Words summoning more words, making space for a new story to come into the world. Solemnly, modestly, reverently. And inside the core a void. Ready for whatever story was going to fill it.

p. 160

Again: a void. Again: what story will fill it?

This was a fascinating novel, and even though it has few pages, it has many themes. None of which are easily answered.

I am hoping to see it on the International Booker Prize longlist this year.

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