“Narcissism” (short story) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History: Bullseye! (2017, Kurodahan)
Original: Japanese (ナルシシズム), 1975
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2017
Synopsis: A lowly salaryman, sick of demanding and/or choosy women, decides to buy an android to satisfy his needs a housemaid and his desires as a sex kitten. Upon arrival, he’s eager to break in the product but the robot–in all appearances and functions, very much a woman–insists on making coffee and tidying up. Near dusk, he can’t contain his lust and sweeps
her it from the kitchen to the bedroom. Upon waking, he lays shivering from the still-open fridge and with his robot clinging to his side begging for compliments, in which she it relishes. When he returns home, she it isn’t acting like a housemaid at all, as he expected.
Analysis: Yasutaka’s blunt generalizations of the sexes is refreshing and makes for very tongue-in-cheek reading. Consider:
When sex robots and housekeeper robots for single men first appeared on the market, not only were they technically flawed but the prices were astronomical. Yet even then, men who’d had enough of relationships with real women were falling over each other to buy them.
as the robots progressively improved, they came to rival real women in a number of ways and grew in popularity as a result. even married men started to buy the mistress robot … Soon a robot that combined the functions of sex and housekeeping services appeared. Outraged women formed lobby groups and launched an opposition movement. (129)
It’s old-school misogyny in the form of satire.
Here, Yasutaka separates men’s desires from their human source: Though their desires are purely human, they choose to release these desires in purely inhuman ways. Why should they feel the need to disregard the emotional comfort of women? Men’s so-called need for housekeeping is merely vanity, but including this function with a sex kitten only plays perfectly into their detached existence: work like a slave at the company only to come home to dominate a slave.
Here, men’s dichotomous life–one of work-life, one of personal-life–reflect one another in an obverse manner: a slave at work but a master at home. However, one thing does carry on from one “life” to the other: detached emotion at work, detached emotion at home. With constantly detached emotions, what makes these men human at all? If they are so detached all the time, how are the unlike the same robots they abuse? At work, the company demands time and order, blood and sweat; thus, at home, the men demand time and order, blood and sweat.
Review: As mentioned in the analysis, Yasutaka always has a way with satire. On the surface, the misogyny is bright, blinding, yet when squinting closely, one can see the hidden charm that’s almost always present in his stories. Indeed, this one is no exception. Another great salaryman story!