Fear and Trembling

Fear and Trembling

A Novel

Book - 2001
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According to ancient Japanese protocol, foreigners deigning to approach the emperor did so only with fear and trembling. Terror and self-abasement conveyed respect. Amélie, our well-intentioned and eager young Western heroine, goes to Japan to spend a year working at the Yumimoto Corporation. Returning to the land where she was born is the fulfillment of a dream for Amélie; working there turns into comic nightmare.Alternately disturbing and hilarious, unbelievable and shatteringly convincing, Fear and Trembling will keep readers clutching tight to the pages of this taut little novel, caught up in the throes of fear, trembling, and, ultimately, delight.
Publisher: New York, N.Y. : St. Martin's : 2001
ISBN: 9780312272180
0312272189
Branch Call Number: FIC Noth
Characteristics: 132p

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j
jimg2000
Mar 21, 2015

As suspected, the book is much richer than the movie by the same name. While satirical views were based on late 1990s Japanese business culture, no doubt some bits still ring true today. Regardless, a super fun read, first published in 1999, and translated into English by Adriana Hunter. It was awarded the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie française that year.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 22, 2014

An eager young Belgian woman takes a one-year contract at a Japanese corporation in Tokyo. Intelligent, hard working, and creative to a fault, she learns the hard way that these are not qualities her superiors value. Not easily defeated, she reverts to some ingenuous survival tactics, but the harder she tries to please, the more completely she fails. A hilarious and fresh take on culture clash, by a talented young author who won the two major French book awards for this novel.

u
Urbano
Jul 22, 2013

Gracious...what an unusual little story. A masochistic young Belgian woman accepts what she thinks will be a dream job as an interpreter for a large Japanese corporation. Within minutes of starting her first day at work, a series of public, ritualistic humiliations befall her. Over and over, Amélie's boss tears up letters she has been ordered to write and makes her re-write them without explaining what errors she is making. She is demoted from interpreter to tea lady then demoted again for the crime of understanding Japanese too well.

The public humiliations and demotions continue until she can go no lower, finding herself in charge of scrubbing toilets--and finds her happiness increasing. "Through some mysterious process in my immune system...everything inside my head changed: dirty became clean, shame became glory, the torturer became the victim, and what was sordid became comic. "

In an interview with The Telegraph, Author Amélie Nothomb claims that the material in this book is largely based on an experience she had working for a large corporation in Tokyo. Northomb says: "Believe me, I have not enough imagination to think up that story. I wrote it because I didn't understand what happened to me. I think that maybe my mistake was to really try to become a Japanese girl. They don't want you to become Japanese."

From the first paragraph, I was completely drawn into Amélie's bizzare, off-kilter world and thoroughly enjoyed this tiny book, though I do wonder how closely it represents life in a large Japanese company. Regardless, I look forward to reading more by this author.

w
W_Broom
Sep 15, 2012

I read this in one sitting, partly due to its refreshingly short length, but mostly because its just well written and hilarious. Inside you will find: excellent facts and insights about Japanese culture, and the gleeful proof that real life is sometimes better than any fiction.

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j
jimg2000
Mar 21, 2015

“It is your duty to marry, preferably before your twenty-fifth birthday, which is your date of expiration. Your husband will not love you, unless he’s a half-wit, and there is no joy in being loved by a half-wit. You will never see him anyway. At two in the morning an exhausted—and often drunk—man will collapse in a heap onto the conjugal bed, which he will leave at six o’clock without a word. “It is your duty to bear children, whom you will treat like gods until they turn three, when, ...

===
Anesan niôbô means “older-sister wife.” The Japanese think the ideal marriage involves a woman with slightly more experience than the man, so that she puts him at ease.

j
jimg2000
Mar 21, 2015

All was explained. At Yumimoto, God was president, and the Devil vice-president.
FUBUKI, ON THE other hand, was neither God nor the Devil; she was Japanese. Not all Japanese women are beautiful. But when one of them sets out to be beautiful, anyone else had better stand back. All forms of beauty are poignant, Japanese beauty particularly so. That lily-white complexion, those mellow eyes, the inimitable shape of the nose, the well-defined contours of the mouth, and the complicated sweetness of the features are enough, by themselves, to eclipse the most perfectly assembled faces. Then there is her comportment, so stylized that it transforms her into a moving work of art.

j
jimg2000
Mar 21, 2015

“And I had been thinking that the Japanese were different from the Chinese.” She looked at me, not understanding. I went on. “Yes. The Chinese didn’t have to wait for Communism to consider denunciation a virtue. To this day the Chinese in Singapore, for example, still encourage their children to tell on their little friends. I thought the Japanese had a stronger sense of honor.”
===
The first sign was a sort of trembling in the good Mister Unaji’s large shoulders. It meant that he was starting to laugh. The vibrations spread to his chest and then to his throat. Eventually came the laugh. I broke out in goose pimples.
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“With your permission, I will spend the night here at my desk.” “Is your brain more efficient in the dark?” Fubuki asked.

j
jimg2000
Mar 21, 2015

I was five years old when we left the Japanese mountains for the Chinese desert. That first exile made such a deep impression on me that I had felt I would do anything to return to the country that for so long I thought of as my native land.
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Mister Tenshi and I were subjected to demented screaming. I still wonder which was worse: the content or the delivery. The content was incredibly insulting. My companion in misfortune and I were called traitors, incompetents, snakes, deceitful, and—the height of injury—individualists. The delivery explained much about Japanese history. I would have been capable of anything to stop the hideous screaming—invade Manchuria, persecute millions of Chinese, commit suicide for the Emperor, hurl my airplane into an American battleship, perhaps even work for two Yumimoto Corporations.

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