‘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

‘Fitting Room’ by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda

This was one of the surreal, magical stories that kept me going in the early days of global pandemic. I especially love the cute drawing by the author. In a Guardian review of Picnic in the Storm, Chris Power describes some of these collected stories as “like soap bubbles, several of these stories catch your eye, but the instant they are gone you forget about them.” Sometimes, soap bubbles that catch the eye—that float with airy swirls of rainbow and pop softly—are exactly what one is looking for.

First published in English translation online by Granta, as ‘Why I Can No Longer Look at a Picnic Blanket Without Laughing’, available here. Collected in Picnic in the Storm, Corsair, 2019