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Fear and Trembling: A Novel Paperback – Apr 18 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; First Edition edition (April 18 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312288573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312288570
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1 x 20.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 23 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #396,904 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Library Journal

Winner of many literary prizes in France, Nothomb (Loving Sabotage, Stranger Next Door) presents an utterly charming, humorous tale of East meets West in her newest novel about a young Belgian woman who works for a year in Japan, a country that she has revered and admired since childhood. At the Yumimoto Corporation, a huge export/import business, the chain of command is made very clear to her on a daily basis, and all initiative is snuffed out. After several crucial errors, our heroine's career ends up in the toilet, literally. Nothomb is a terrific writer whose writing style is simple, honest, and elegant. Very highly recommended for all libraries.DLisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

As if we needed more proof that our globe is shrinking, here is a novel set in Japan, translated from French, written by a Belgian who was born in Kobe and now lives in Paris. Our heroine, Amelie, gets a job in the import-export division of the huge Yumimoto Corporation, the only Westerner in sea of Japanese company men. There are also a very few women, the most prominent among them being the stunning and awe-inspiring Miss Mori, Amelie's immediate superior. Through no fault of her own, but only because no one who is not Japanese can possibly navigate through all the complex rituals and protocols that lie at the heart of Japanese corporate culture, Amelie-san finds herself falling down a rabbit hole of increasingly meaningless tasks--delivering the mail, photocopying an executive's golf club bylaws, finally cleaning the bathrooms. It is Fubuki Mori who presides over this spiral, bent on humiliation even as Amelie begins to understand and even sympathize with her plight as an unmarried Japanese woman trying to hold her own. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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MISTER HANEDA WAS senior to Mister Omochi, who was senior to Miss Mori, who was senior to me. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

By avid reader on July 1 2004
Format: Paperback
I found the novella (in the original French) an interesting read, but I had to ask myself why a girl who was partly raised in Japan would have made such astounding faux pas. For example, even in Western society, would it not be polite and politic to accept a piece of chocolate from your boss (even if it is water melon flavored)? I kept having to attribute her maladroitness and incompetence to her young age, but if you make such allowances for the narrator, can you trust the narrator's viewpoint? Some of the tirades against Japanese culture came across as almost vengeful. Also, I would have liked to see more of a context to this story. Again, I kept wondering; what did this girl do in her free time? Toward the end, the narrator explains why there is no mention of her home life, but I felt like this was more of an excuse than a reason. I did admire much of the writing, but the classical references (so many of them) and some of the allegories seemed pretentious and out of place. In summary, I would have preferred either a straightforward satirical/comical account of her experiences, without the personal commentary, or else a more rounded and balanced work.
For those who enjoy reading fiction in French, I recommend the novella "La Classe de neige" by Emmanuel Carrere (sp?), a grippingly disturbing story expertly told through an imaginative and intuitive nine-year-old boy.
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Format: Paperback
I am usually well inclined to fiction which attempts to portray the journey of characters through several aspects of different cultures and have a large collection of such books from many countries. Reading this particular book by a Belgian writer who lived in Japan however reminded me that one enters into this genre of displacement and cross-cultural ventures with both promises of entertainment and insight and perils of reinforcing stereotypes.
I do not consider myself an expert on Japan, a country I have visited several times and several of whose novelists (Kawabata, Mishima, Endo, and others) I have read in translation. However, over the years I have followed in depth the experiences of many of my close non-Japanese friends who have carefully labored to study the language and culture, worked in similar Japanese organizations to the one described in this novel, and even married and settled in this land of persistently refractory attitudes to foreigners.
I thus read this novel (which is short and easily completed in an hour or two) with mixed feelings. The characters are vivid and the plot is entertaining. The scenes are both horrific and hilarious, partly because they are also caricatured. This includes the final scene where the protagonist is forced to grovel in submitting her resignation from a Japanese import-export firm, lamenting that her "Western brain is inferior to the Japanese brain" to the delight of her Japanese nemesis.
My dominant reaction was however one of horror with the stereotypes that the book simplistically designs and reinforces of Japanese attitudes toward women and foreigners. Like all stereotypes, there can always be an element of truth in them.
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Format: Paperback
I have been living and working in Japan for almost 8 years, in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe, for Japanese and foreign companies. Like so many foreign residents here, I was shocked by the simplistic way Ms. Nothomb looks at Japanese society and business environment. A reader wrote he/she was shocked by the way Japanese punished her just because she showed some initiative. Come on!!! In any of our Western countries, an intern making half of her mistakes and showing half of her stupidity would have been fired in a matter of days! Saying she admires Japanese housewives for not committing suicide just shows how much she does not understand the country. DO NOT BELIEVE HER!!! I honnestly have trouble believing she does speak Japanese because her "analysis" is one that could have been written by any tourist trying to work there for 5 weeks: superficial, frustrated by the culture gap and lack of proper communication. I know that because I used to think her way during my first two years in Japan! Ms. Nothomb has just written an extremely easy and commercial book which aim was to shock and astonish people not familiar with Japan. Her book comforts readers in what they may have thought Japan was like, it is in NO WAY to be taken as an analysis or testimony by someone reliable. Entertaining because of the sterotypes yes (hence one star), but please, do not believe what she writes. I invite readers to stop and think about the huge mistakes she made when trying to work in a Japanese company and ask to reconsider if this writer can be considered smart enough to give a faithful picture of what Japanese society may be. This book is only HER testimony, it would be a pitty to draw conclusions about Japan from this simplistic book.
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By Luc REYNAERT on Nov. 15 2002
Format: Hardcover
This autobiographical novel gives us a very tarnished picture of the once so highly admired Japanese business culture and even of Japanese life in general.
In the course of one year Amélie Nothomb makes it from junior clerk to toilet cleanser. Why? By taking initiatives.
She gives us an impressive (very bleak) portrait of life in a Japanese business office: fear for colleagues, fear to lose a job or to miss a promotion, trembling before the hierarchy, bitter commpetition between the employees, suspicion and spying on everybody. As a matter of fact, the exact climate to stop all progress.
What are the employees waiting for after this terrible office hours: compulsive evening out with colleagues(?), hours in an overcrowded subway and finally an exhausted housewive. To quote another famous author: the air-conditioned nightmare.
She gives us an incisive picture of the condition of Japanese women: the author admires them because they don't commit suicide.
A compelling and eye-opening read.
For other impressive books on Japanese culture I recommend the works of Ian Buruma, and for the condition of Japanese women: Harriet Sergeant 'The old sow in the back room'.
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