‘Having a Blast’ by Matsuda Aoko, translated by Polly Barton

To dive right in to the preoccupations of Matsuda Aoko, this story is a good introduction, from her collection about the strangeness of ghosts and women and the past and the way life leaks between the two. In three parts there are separate narrations from the point of view of the deceased wife, her husband, and the second wife. The ghost speaks directly to the reader but by the time one arrives at this latter story in the collection, one is used to this tone and device and the easy gliding between perspectives. The story speaks to the sense that the past is always present. The logic of what might be called ‘real life’ is exemplified in the portrait of work life of the company where the characters were employed. Within each section, though, the writing style is sparse and clear and one is beguiled by the individual voices.

Collected in Where the Wild Ladies Are, Tilted Axis, 2020

‘Enoki’ by Matsuda Aoko, translated by Polly Barton

I love Matsuda Aoko’s writing. I wanted to choose The Girl Who Is Getting Married (part of the Keshiki series of chapbooks from Strangers Press), but I thought I’d pick something people can read online instead.

First published in Japanese in 2018. Included in Where the Wild Ladies Are, Tilted Axis 2020. Available to read online here

‘The Woman Dies’ by Aoko Matsuda, translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton

In this beautiful translation, which captures the rhythm of the source text so artfully, the woeful fates of female characters in fiction and the way our real life experiences are shaped by them are explored with humour and pathos.

The woman dies so the man can be sad about it. The woman dies so the man can suffer. She dies to give him a destiny. Dies so he can fall to the dark side. Dies so he can lament her death. As he stands there, brimming with grief, brimming with life, the woman lies there in silence. The woman dies for him. We watch it happen. We read about it happening. We come to know it well.

First published in English translation in November 2018 on Granta online and available here. It was shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award in 2019. From the collection Wairudo furawa no mienai ichinen (The Year of No Wild Flowers), Kawadeshoboshinsha, 2016