As an author, Ryu Murakami specialises in presenting Japan in a way that few other writers do. His stories combine the seedy underbelly of Japan with the darker side of human nature. One of his most famous works, Audition, became so popular that it was adapted into a film. The novel is a brutal exploration into the psyche of a scorned woman and the hell she can unleash on the men who have wronged her.
A sense of foreboding
Audition follows the life of widower Shigeharu Aoyama and his desire to find a new wife. After talking to his producer friend, Yoshikawa, Aoyama becomes involved in a mock casting process to determine the woman he wants to marry. There’s something darkly funny about a middle age man going to such lengths to find a girlfriend and Murakami paints Aoyama as a naïve, deluded, borderline misogynistic who nevertheless wants the best for his young son Shige.
Through the audition process, Aoyama becomes besotted by a woman named Asami Yamazaki. It’s not long before Aoyama develops an obsession with her that he likens to addiction and they develop a relationship.
But despite Aoyama’s happiness, several characters point out Asami’s strangeness and warn him to stay away from her. Murakami is brilliant at building an ominous feeling through his descriptions, which he also used to great effect for In The Miso Soup. Aoyama’s self-deception causes him to ignore all advice and it comes back to bite him.
After spending a night in a hotel with Asami, Aoyama awakens to find that she’s disappeared. Later, Asami confronts him in his home and drugs Aoyama because she feels that he lied to her about only ever being able to love her. Unstable from years of child abuse, Asami plans to kill Aoyama by sawing off his feet and making him resemble her abusive stepfather.
This leads to one of the most graphic scenes of violence that I’ve ever read and it’s a testament to Murakami’s skill as a writer that he can make you feel physically uncomfortable when reading his work. His depiction of Asami can be construed as feminist because she is enacting revenge on men who she perceives to have done her harm. On the other hand, Murakami portrays her as psychologically damaged as well, so it’s up to the reader to decide as to what kind of person she truly is.
Audition is classic Ryu Murakami: violent, creative and utterly captivating. Purchase it now on Amazon.