Book #128: Fear and Trembling (1999)

fntaka: Stupeur et tremblements
author: Amélie Nothomb
language: English translated from French
length: 132 pages
finished on: 19 Feb 2017

My coworker gave me this novella when he’d finished with it. It’s a memoir about working in a Japanese company, written by a Belgian girl who came over to work here for a year. It’s the story of what happened to her at work.

It’s very critical of the Japanese work culture, and the attitudes towards foreigners, depicted as pretty horrible. I didn’t quite buy some of it – I have to wonder how much of it is true, basically, and how much is fanciful embellishment. I’m not sure her attitude towards her Japanese coworkers is all that great either. Some parts I just scoffed.

However, I don’t feel like I work at a “real” Japanese company, since I’m teaching English. So I guess this might be more relatable to those working in Japanese offices. Also, it’s about her experiences in the 90s, and stuff has changed since then. Gradually. The biggest scandal now in Japan is about overworking employees – a girl in a major company committed suicide a year ago, and I think some of the parts described in this book match that stereotype pretty well.

I did enjoy the author’s way of describing things – it’s all very floral language, and she takes care over what she says in the book. The tone is also consistent throughout, which helps. I enjoyed hearing the story of a girl who spent some of her early years in Japan, only to come back and be disillusioned. I enjoyed hearing about the female supervisor who she has a crush on, who sees her as an upstart, calls her stupid, and sabotages her career.

Basically I enjoyed reading it, and it didn’t take long – I’m just not sure about her opinions.


One Response to Book #128: Fear and Trembling (1999)

  1. tokyofox says:

    A french language film was also made based on this womans story. Worth checking out if you’re keen!

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