‘A Clean Marriage’ by Sayaka Murata

A Clean Marriage by Sayaka Murata, 2014

The magic trick:

A sex scene – and sexual relationship – unlike any you’ve likely read about

We’re off to Japan for another excellent week of excellent Japanese short stories.

Hard to say I’ve ever read anything quite like this. Maybe George Saunders. But, oddly, this is actually more realistic than Saunders, and, therefore, more unsettling.

We’re talking about a marriage sexless by design. The couple wants children, though. So what’s next? Artificial insemination. You’ve never read about a sex scene like this, I promise.

And that’s quite a trick on Murata’s part.

The selection:

‘I want my family life to be a calm space, the kind you have hanging out with a room-mate you get on really well with or with your favourite younger sister while the parents are away.’

‘I see. I can identify with that.’

‘The fact is, I feel uncomfortable with the idea of family as an extension of romantic attachment. A family should not have anything to do with feelings of love between man and woman – it should be a simple partnership.’

‘I agree,’ I said. ‘I’ve lived with several men, but there’s always a point where it falls apart. We’re supposed to be family, but they expect me to be both a woman and an understanding friend, which is a contradiction, isn’t it? I’m supposed to be wife, friend and mother . . . I would much rather live as brother and sister.’

‘That’s precisely what I mean. But nobody understands – not even that matchmaking site. They have these questions about the man’s income and what the woman likes cooking – but that’s not what a family is about to me. I want a partner, not all that man-woman stuff.’


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