Konpira by Yoriko Shōno
At the age of 47, an impoverished writer bearing a remarkable resemblance to the author moves away from the home of the most sacred Shinto shrine in Japan and suddenly realizes that she is, in fact, a forgotten, genderless Hindu-Buddhist crocodile god called Konpira. So much now makes sense to her: her outsider status in society, as well as the rage she has always felt about the humiliations of being a woman.
Freed from the political-spiritual aura of Ise Shrine, her spiritual creativity blossoms—and she quickly finds that her abilities as a god rely on resentment and indignation as a source of energy. Traveling from shrine to shrine in search of her roots, Konpira summons other forgotten gods and wronged spirits and merges with them, rolling them up into a genderless behemoth powered by rage.
Konpira is an anarchic, stylish romp trampling over Japan’s canonical foundational myths, offering a queer, ‘hyper-personal’ revenge for all the people and traditions repressed and consigned to oblivion on Japan’s path to becoming a modern nation-state.
Born in 1956, Yoriko Shōno began writing while studying law at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. After her 1981 debut Paradise (‘Gokuraku’) won the Gunzo New Writers Prize, Shōno went on to win the Noma Literary Prize for New Writers, the Yukio Mishima Prize, and the Akutagawa Prize in a three-year period. These works firmly cemented her reputation as an elegantly inventive post-modernist and occasional auto-fictionalist.
Defining her work as ‘avant-pop’, Shōno writes lucidly and poetically in a way that makes the strange seem perfectly reasonable, slipping her characters into languid dream worlds before taking them on a detour into slapstick humor and rampant paranoia, reminiscent of Calvino or Pynchon.