Translation Works
To Japanese
The 3rd Selected Works
Single Cell
Single Cell
(Shinguru seru)
GERMAN / Heike Patzschke published
Originally Published by:
Fukutake Shoten (1986)
  • Introspective novel dealing with the growing number of singles living their "single-cell" lives in Tokyo.
  • Izumi Kyoka Prize winning novel.
The main character is a twenty-five-year-old graduate student named Mikio Shiiba. He lost his mother early in life, and ever since his father's sudden death seven years ago he has been living alone in Tokyo. A struggling student, he juggles part-time work as a tutor with his studies in the Department of Agriculture.
Shiiba is spending time in late autumn in an inn. He wants to stay in graduate school and continue his studies, but Professor T. has given up on him and advised him to get a job. Facing graduation in the spring, he has come here to spend a quiet two weeks and finish his dissertation, but in his disappointment he's making no progress. Unwilling to think about his future, his mind turns to sentimental reflections on the past. Looking back, he is appalled to see that after his father's death he cut his ties with other people, resolving to live alone, and was then forced by poverty to spend his every free moment buried in work.
Managing to finish the thesis, on the last day of his stay he comes upon Ryoko whom he had met briefly once before. When she confides that she can't afford the fare home, they travel back together, have sex, but in the end she goes away.
The story reads like a scientific experiment the author designed for her own amusement: if a single-cell individual who has cut all ties to the outer world and is plantlike in the extreme meets up with a single-cell member of the opposite sex who has an animal's sharp sense of smell, what chemical reaction will occur? The author's experiences as a graduate student in agriculture are brought into play, lending realism to Shiiba's detailed characterization. That realism supports this sophisticated literary experiment.