Fear and Trembling--Amélie Nothomb

I first encountered the name Amélie Nothomb at Tony's Book World and given the high recommendation there and elsewhere concluded that I had better get cracking.Given my fondness for all things Japanese, Fear and Trembling seemed like a good place to start.

Fear and Trembling is the story of a young woman of European ancestry who has spent a great deal of time in East Asia applying for and receiving a job with the Japanese firm.  The story centers around her progressive discovery of the sense of Japanese Business culture and her attempts to accomodate it. No matter what she does to please her supervisors, most of them come back with insults and criticisms of her work. 

This sets the mood and the tone of the book:

from Fear and Trembling
Amélie Nothomb

Mister Haneda was seion to Mister Omochi, who was senior to Mister Saito, who was senior to Miss Mori, who was senior to me. I was senior to no one.

You could put this another way. I took orders from Miss Mori, who took orders from Mister Saito, and so on up the ladder; of course, orders that came down could jump a level or two.

And so it was that, within the import-export division of the Yumimoto Corporation, I took orders from everyone.

And so it starts.  Throughout we meet people, both kind and unconscionably viscious.  We learn that envy is an admired trait amongst Japanese Business people and humilation of others is a consistent and highly admired goal.

The book is long on acid humor and short on really likeable characters; although, without saying anything more, that is subject to change rapidly in the book.

The book is sufficiently well-written, detailed, and amusing to encourage me to seek out more of the same.  Ms. Nothomb is no waster of words, and her novels tend to be the length of longish stories and so three or four of these could pass easily in the frame of an evening.  And so, I must go seeking three or four bon-bons for some future evening's entertainment.

***** Recommended


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