Fear and Trembling: A Novel Paperback – Apr 18 2002
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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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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'.
Most recent customer reviews
If you must admire the Japanese woman -- and you must -- it's because she doesn't commit suicide
Amelie joins the job force in Japan with high hopes. Read more
As an American who worked in Japan in the 1980's, I read this book with a special sense of recognition. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2004
This book hides a very strong punch behind a soft and vulnerable "heroine" who has been relegated to janotorial work after a series of "mistakes". Read morePublished on Nov. 10 2003
In Nothom's caricature of Japanese corporate life, Belgian national Amelie begins by taking a new job at the import-export division of the Yomimoto Corporation. Read morePublished on Aug. 26 2003 by M. T. Guzman
Amelie you may have had to eat crow in Japan, but you've spit out a pearl. I've been meaning to read this book for some time and regret it took me so long. Read morePublished on June 21 2002 by Beres
This charming and compelling novella was a huge hit in France, winning the prestigious Grand Prix de I'Academie Francaise and selling half a million copies, and while it's... Read morePublished on May 3 2002 by A. Ross
I had a shock reading that little book. I read the French version. I saw a lot of time this young autor from Belgium at TV. Read morePublished on March 10 2002 by Jacinthe Grandmont
This is a first-person narrative about a young Belgian woman, raised in Japan and fluent in Japanese, who returns to Japan to work for a large Japanese company. Read morePublished on Jan. 2 2002 by A reader