Japanese female writers are definitely having a moment right now. The recent popularity of books by Yoko Tawada, Mieko Kawakami and Kyoko Nakajima is testament to that. What unites these novelists - who have fairly distinctive styles - is their female characters who either exist as an anomaly in their environment, or are struggling to make sense of the absurdity of the world in which they exist.

Sayaka Murata burst on to the mainstream literary scene after her novel Konbini Ningen was translated into English as Convenience Store Woman and became a multimillion-copy bestseller. It is the story of a young woman perceived as an oddball since she refuses to adhere to the norms of Japanese society. But with her second translated work, Earthlings (from the original Japanese Chikyu Seijin), Murata carved out a niche for herself. Earthlings is a mesmeric, deranged novel that handles tough topics such as murder, paedophilia and cannibalism with the sort of dry humour only Murata is capable of.

In his remarkable book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King writes that 'in many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it 'got boring', the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.'

Murata's latest book, Life Ceremony: Stories, definitely keeps the ball rolling, and how. Translated from the Japanese Sheimeishiki, this collection of 12 short stories is her most subversive work yet, in which she sets out to disturb the status quo, question societal taboos and dismantle our perception of normal.

Celebrated Japanese author Sayaka Murata's collection of short stories takes on outlandish concepts, but makes them believable and humorous in the way she writes them

In the eponymously titled tale, funerals are replaced by a ritual called 'life ceremony' where the deceased's loved ones feast upon the dead body, usually in the form of miso hotpots. This is followed by a hunt for an insemination partner, based on the idea of 'birthing life from death.'

In one scene, the protagonist has to cook human flesh for the first time for his friend's life ceremony and the narrative goes into gory detail about how the meat is prepared. In the hands of a lesser writer, this would have been a revolting read, but Murata handles it with a levity that, rather than turning them away, keeps readers' curiosity intact.

In the world of 'A First-Rate Material', it is the...

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