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Fear and Trembling: A Novel Paperback – April 18, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 the Hardcover edition.

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 the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (April 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312288573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312288570
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,374 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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 certainly good, I have to wonder if it was a slow year or something. Clearly based of Nothomb's own experiences in Japan (the title character is also named Amélie in case there was any doubt), the story covers a year in a Belgian woman's life as she starts and ends a job at a huge Japanese corporation. Because the character was raised in Japan and speaks the language fluently, she's caught between two worlds, she can never be accepted as a Japanese, but she knows to much to be the classic clumsy foreigner.
Which is not to say that she doesn't screw up culturally, because she does-multiple times-but often the underlying problem is not her, but in the system around her. Nothomb uses these little catastrophes as windows to criticize Japanese business and social structures with scathing attacks, most notably a long discourse on the plight of the Japanese woman. Amélie is contrasted with her immediate boss, an immaculately put together beauty who is a lowly middle-manager, but still the highest level female in the company. Amélie has an odd, vaguely erotic, attraction to her which complicates everything. When the entire office witnesses (but tries not to ) this woman's verbally rape and humiliation at the hands of the boss, Amélie finds this emblematic of Japanese society's ostrich-like tendencies. While this may all sound deep and dark, the book is actually quite lively and humorous. That said, it's not a breathtaking book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
[Disclosure: I saw the film first, then sought out the novella because I was so intrigued by the premise of the story, how obstinate personalities can collide. I think that sequence would have been preferable for the previous reviewers who ended up hating this book.]

I am amazed at the previous reviews, even the positive ones, which make the elementary mistake of thinking "Fear and Trembling" by Amelié Nothomb is a documentary portrayal of personal events.

Please remember, it is a work of *fiction*, not an *autobiography*, however much it may or may not draw on the author's personal experiences. If you read it as a diary of the author's personal life, you will hate it as a tale of cruelty and willfulness.

If you read it as a *fictional* tale which draws from and exaggerates all-too-recognizable human thoughts and emotions, you will admire the author's and translator's considerable talents.

Those reviewers who absolutely hated the book seem to have completely forgetten about the "willing suspension of disbelief" that we always bring to theatrical or fictional works, so that we may enter the author's mind for a short time and judge how skillfully he or she put together the elements of a story to fascinate, horrify, or amuse us.

The translator, Adriana Hunter, deserves the highest praise for her elegant prose, which perfectly captures the spirit and conciseness of the best writing in French. I fell in love with the prose, which I consider some of the best writing in English I've ever encountered. I look forward to reading the book in its original language.
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Format: Paperback
As an American who worked in Japan in the 1980's, I read this book with a special sense of recognition. You may think that what the protagonist experiences in this book is highly exaggerated. Believe me, it is not! This is a very enjoyable read for those who can empathize with what it is like to be a foreign woman in Japan, and should be an amusing read for anyone else interested in modern Japan.
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Format: Paperback
It was a quick engaging read for sure and most of the time I enjoyed it. But at times I was annoyed by her satirical views of Japanese culture that went on and on, which seemed to have grown rather too quickly and too extensive out of such a short period of her work experiences. Therefore, I couldn't help but feel that the writer had set off to work for the Japanese corporation, regardless of the impression that she gave at the beginning of the book that she always admired Japan, with a mindset to convince her pre-existing views and make fun of the company, with the pretentious ambition that someday she would write an entertaining book about her experience. And, she succeeded! Yes, there's some truth in what she described about the corporate culture where a new female worker often starts a day/work making tea for others, a boss could be very unreasonable and just order you something with no explanation, envy issues towards other's promotion which lead to some bullying, a woman who's over 26 feels pressure to be already married and so on... I am a Japanese woman, I know. But, commiting a suicide is family pride? Com'on! Nobody in Japan hears that kind of value since 40's. Except for during the Second World War when the nationalism drove people mad, if anything, a suicide is a big shame to the family, nothing to be proud of. And, there's no such a name as "Tsutomeru" ( meaning Work), described as her boss' child's name and made a big deal out of as a proof that Japanese people are work crazy. The name must be "Tsutomu" ( meaning Earnest). There were other rudimental mistakes in Japanese words which the author inserted here and there.Read more ›
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