“Almost Brautigan-like charm” – Diary of a Void by Emi Yagi (trans. Lucy North & David Boyd)

IMG_2022-9-13-065708Ms Shibata is a bit sick of doing all of the menial jobs round the office – tidying up the coffeecups after meetings, distributing the cups of free jelly they get from suppliers, working late, doing all the filing and copying. So, all but apropos of nothing, she decides she’s having a baby.

And what a change it makes. A lot of those jobs get taken off her. People seem to pay more attention to her and offer greater deference. She is told she can leave early (not that she really leaves early, she learns, she leaves more or less when other people in more regular jobs leave – they all fill the train home as if nothing special was happening).

Week by week we follow Ms Shibata on her imaginary journey, as she charts the size of her imaginary baby (complaining when it’s the same size as a butternut squash – who even eats that any way, she harrumphs) and ever so gradually starts to feel something actually growing inside her. What’s that you say? Something actually growing inside her? Why yes.

She visits a doctor for a scan and his x-rays reveal something, outlined in blue with a sort of fuzzy face that refuses closer inspection. Ah, the reader thinks – has she willed something into life through the force of her imagination? (To which the answer is yes, in a way – you’re reading it). Unfortunately, however, as it’s busy straddling this Schrodinger-like world of having its cake and eating it, Diary of a Void loses some of the initial charm it had for the first three quarters of its duration.

It’s not without interest, to be sure, and there are moments of almost Brautigan-like charm (regular readers to Bookmunch will know that any comparisons to Brautigan are high praise indeed) – there is just a slight problem of holding the position on the high wire without a wobble and towards the end of the book there are a few wobbles.

Any Cop?: It’s certainly a noteworthy debut and Emi Yagi is definitely a name to watch in the future.

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