‘The Lonesome Bodybuilder’ by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda

In Yukiko Motoya’s stories people, bodies and relationships morph into bizarre new shapes. In this story a woman’s new hobby brings the collection’s theme of marriage into sharply defined focus. Her bodybuilding alters her relationship with herself, her colleagues and her customers at work, but her husband doesn’t notice a thing until she gets a haircut. Her newfound purpose and working with her fitness coach reduces her loneliness – “Sculpting beautiful bundles of muscle took a lot more commitment than I’d thought’ – but the T-bar rows, rack pulls and reverse crunches that she does religiously are really a way of expressing “all my different faces”. She defies the complacency of long-term partnership, declaring “There’s so much inside me he doesn’t’ know.” When her husband finally sees her the coach comments “I get the sense you’ve had some kind of breakthrough”. It’s no spoiler to say that the story has an (apparently) happy ending.

From The Lonesome Bodybuilder, Soft Skull Press, 2018

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