The Asahi Shimbun
7 June 2019
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The Woman in the Purple Skirt
by Natsuko Imamura
Winner of the 161st (2019) Akutagawa Prize
English editions were published by Penguin Books and Faber & Faber in June 2021!
Very powerful . . . Meticulous and extremely precise . . . Reading this book made me feel like I was in an unstable and strange world. ―Sayaka Murata, bestselling author of Convenience Store Woman
The Woman in the Purple Skirt lives in a world of her own. Every day she goes to the bakery, where she buys a cream bun and then to the park, where she sits on a bench to eat the bun. She is observed closely at all times by the undetected narrator, referred to by herself as the Woman in the Yellow Cardigan. The Woman in the Purple Skirt is no youngster: though from a distance she looks like a schoolgirl, there are age spots on her face. But, like the narrator, she is single, she lives in a small run-down flat, and she is short of money. She is an object of fascination not only to the narrator but also to the local children, who taunt her as she sits alone on the bench in the park.
So begins this highly original black comedy The Woman in the Purple Skirt. Reminiscent of a modern fairy tale, deadpan, with some creepy humour and elements of farce, the book reminds us of Muriel Spark's The Driver's Seat and Anna Burns's Milkman. It explores the dynamics of envy, the mechanisms of ‘power harassment’ in the workplace, and the vulnerability and precarity of unmarried women in a patriarchal society.
About the author
Natsuko Imamura is one of Japan’s most acclaimed young writers. She has been nominated three times for the Akutagawa Prize, and won the prize in 2019. She has also won the Dazai Osamu Prize, the Mishima Yukio Prize, the Kawai Hayao Story Prize, and the Noma Literary New Face Prize.