Aoyama is a documentary maker and has not had a serious relationship for seven years since the death of his wife. His friends and his teenage son persuade him to consider remarrying and so a plot his hatched between Aoyama and his best friend to find the perfect wife. Under the pretext of making a film, auditions are held, except the young hopefuls are auditioning for the role of wife, rather than a starring part in any film. Aoyama immediately falls for the beautiful ballerina Yamasaki Asami. As their relationship develops and Aoyama’s obsession grows, he asks her tomarry him and when she accepts, he decides it is time to come clean and tell her the truth, including that he has a teenage son.
The premise of Ryu Murakami’s short novel is pretty straightforward and as I was reading it I was lulled into a false state of security. I thought I was reading a book primarily about male middle-aged angst, but as the story develops it becomes darker and darker. In its reveiw of his earlier book Piercing, the Times Literary Supplement described it as a “smart and snappy psychosexual thriller and a commentary on the violent things men and women do to one another.” If anything this would be an understatement if applied to Audition. Not only is this a stylishly and succinctly written book, it is also a book about truth, lies and morality and our perceptions of these. The final scene is as shocking and violent as anything I’ve read this year (including McCarthy) and exceeds In the Miso Soup and Piercing in this respect. But as your stomach is churning at the events described, you cannot help but admire the work of both writer and translator.