Harvill Secker senior editor Ellie Steel has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights at auction for Diary of a Void by debut Japanese author Emi Yagi.
The deal was made with Li Kangqin at New River Literary, on behalf of Kohei Hattori at The English Agency and Chikuma Shobō. North American rights went to John Siciliano at Penguin Books. The novel will be translated by Lucy North and David Boyd, to be published in summer 2022.
Written in diary form, Diary of a Void is an "ironic and playful" reference to the Japanese Maternal and Child Health Handbook, a notebook issued to all expectant mothers in Japan so they can record the details of their pregnancies and experiences of motherhood until their child is six years old.
The novel follows 34-year-old Ms Shibata, who works for a company manufacturing cardboard tubes in Tokyo. Her job is relatively secure: she’s a full-time employee, and the company has a better reputation than her previous workplace, where she was subject to sexual harassment by clients and colleagues. But the job requires working overtime almost every day and as the only woman, there’s the unspoken expectation that she will handle all the menial chores. One day, exasperated and fed up, Ms Shibata announces that she can’t clear away her colleagues’ dirty cups, because she’s pregnant. She isn’t, but her news brings results: a sudden change in the way she’s treated.
The debut "will not only skewer universal patriarchal attitudes towards maternity and pregnancy, but also challenge the truth of conception on many levels", said the publisher.
Steel said: "Diary of a Void is a wonderfully funny, smart, feminist novel poking fun, but with serious intent, at the slippery sanctity of motherhood, mirroring how society superficially reveres mothers while conversely making actual parenting a sometimes disempowering experience without the right support. The past year has been so tough on parents, and I hope Emi Yagi’s brilliant debut will bring some joy and relief next summer."
Yagi commented: "I'm really happy that Diary of a Void will reach English readers. At the moment we cannot meet physically, but I cannot wait for us to meet through reading, and to have the shared experience in words."
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