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Fear and Trembling [Paperback]

Amélie Nothomb
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
Price: £5.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Book Description

19 Aug 2004

'Ingenious . . . With great delicacy, Nothomb updates the age-old divide between East and West in this delectable little book.' O, The Oprah Magazine

Amélie, a well-intentioned and eager young westerner, goes to Japan to spend a year working at the Yumimoto Corporation. Returning to the land where she was born is the fulfilment of a dream for Amélie, but once there her working life quickly becomes a comic nightmare of terror and self-abasement. Disturbing, hilarious and totally convincing, Fear and Trembling displays an elegant and shrewd understanding of the intricate ways in which Japanese relationships are made and spoiled.

'A vituperatively funny attack on an alien culture.' Daily Telegraph

'Nothomb is the latest enfant terrible of French letters - she has an acidic yet passionately romantic view of human nature.' Elle

'A scathingly funny novella.' Newsday

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (19 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571220487
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571220489
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 123,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'Ingenious... With great delicacy, Nothomb updates the age-old divide between East and West in this delectable little book.' O, The Oprah Magazine; 'Nothomb is the latest enfant terrible of French letters... She has an acidic yet passionately romantic view of human nature.' Elle"

About the Author

Belgian by nationality, Amélie Nothomb was born in Kobe, Japan, and currently lives in Paris. Described by Time Magazine as 'prolific and ingenious', she is the best-selling author of thirteen novels, translated into thirty languages. Fear and Trembling won the Grand Prix of the Académie Française and the Prix Internet du Livre. The Book of Proper Names was originally published in France, as Robert Des Noms Propres, where it has sold over 250,000 copies.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Pablo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Fear And Trembling is a delightfully humourous novella which is eminently readable, yet also thought-provoking in a multitude of ways. Semi-autobiographical, it is a first-person narrative of the Japanese corporation through Western eyes. The rigidly hierarchical, authoritarian, racist and sexist Japanese corporation which dominates Japanese society is portrayed with penetrating irony and humour and as such constitutes an insightful, if at times simplistic, analysis of Japanese society. But before Western voices smugly talk about "the age-old divide between East and West" (Oprah Magazine) or an "attack on an alien culture" (Daily Telegraph), I think it's worth pondering the universality of this little book. Over the past century, corporations have increasingly come to dominate societies the world over, and as Joel Bakan has lucidly analysed in 'The Corporation', the corporation is an inherently psychopathic entity. We can laugh at the Japanese executive who names his son 'work' in Japanese, but the Japanese are by no means the only wage-slaves. Nor is workplace bullying and sexism confined to Japan. Corporations dominate the lives of people both humane and inhumane, intelligent and stupid, the world over. Amélie's eventual fate as a lavatory cleaner can be seen as a metaphor for the price of non-conformism in any contemporary society. Fear And Trembling is thus also a penetrating indictment of corporate society per se. As for those who talk of Nothomb as "over-rated", this concept implies a consensus about literature which thankfully doesn't exist, moribund academics notwithstanding. For me personally Fear And Trembling is a wonderful book. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Account of Workplace Bullying 3 Nov 2012
By Christopher H TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Amelie Nothomb lands a job in Tokyo with a major Japanese corporation. The young Belgian has an impeccable background: besides excelling at university, she grew up the child of a leading European diplomatic family (she grew up in cities in Japan, China, America and several other countries), spoke and read several languages fluently, and was immersed in the culture of diplomacy. Surely she would be a useful addition to any corporation?

The management of the unidentified corporation she served within for a year put her through a relentless process of bullying and humiliation. This is a crucially important book which describes how management engineers workplace bullying.

Initially she is used as a tea lady. This is the first step in what becomes a long gruelling process of trying to wear her down and break her. For a time she becomes the mail girl, then the person who changes the date on people's calendars. Then she is assigned pointless photocopying, which is deliberately thrown away by a senior manager at the end of each day. The indignities mount as she is criticised, undermined, harrassed, overruled, shouted at, betrayed, humilated until, after several months, she is made the toilet attendant. And the bullying still doesn't stop.

The greatest anger is incurred whenever Ms Nothomb does good work. She uses her diplomatic skills when serving coffee to visiting Japanese executives. A senior manager is furious, and besides issuing orders that she is not to do this again, instructs her to forget the Japanese language. On another occasion she researches and writes a report on foreign imports, which a manager of another division describes as impeccable. The vice president is livid, and forbids her to do any such thing again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the real world! 2 April 2012
By Omnes
Once upon a time, a year after the start of the 1989 Japanese recession, a new employee came to work at the Yumimoto company in Tokyo. Having been born in Japan, and having left it for several years before coming back there in 1989, Amelie's dream is finally going to come true. She is going to work in this wonderful country as a translator for this company. Although she tries to do her job as best as she can, which is with honesty and dedication, she unfortunately has to deal with certain hypocritical employees, including one of her superior who doesn't hesitate to employ certain unethical favors in order to put Amelie back to her place, and remind her that although she knows how to speak and write Japanese, she is not, and will never be, welcomed among them and that she has to kneel before them.

There have been ardent fans of Japan and Anime, tourists, and other Japanese who wrote very rude letters to Amelie Nothomb, accusing her of racism or that she probably deserved what she had to suffer. Which I disagree for I got to spend time with some Japanese and I agree with many things that Amelie wrote in her book. it is evident that this author, who based her book on experiences she lived in a Japanese company, wrote down something that some hardcore fan of Japan or Anime would not want to hear. That deep down, the country that they dream, and almost worship, is not as wonderful and open-minded as the Animes, Mangas, and Japanese movies they love to watch which tend to present Japan as this Wonderland. Although there are some good Japanese who live there, like the wonderful Mr. Tenshi who works at Yumimoto company, not all of them are yet ready to accept foreigners among their employees.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Very poor read
A book about nothing but a person being progressively degraded, taking it because she regards it as the Japanese way and, by some perverse logic feels that by not giving in she is... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sean MOffatt
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome!
Reading the book was like wading my way through the fog. Delicate, ironic and utterly adherent of Japanise society.
Not for everyone, but for expert readers.
Published 10 months ago by Clara Pochettino
2.0 out of 5 stars I feel sorry for the company
This is the third review I've written of this book, since Amelie or someone close to her regularly purges all reviews under 4 stars. Ho hum. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jude Austin
4.0 out of 5 stars title
Interesting read, written in a very simple and at times childish language, exploring tiny bits of Japanese culture and comparing it, very mildly, with Western culture. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Ms. Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh
3.0 out of 5 stars The Revenge of the Loo Brush
"Fear and trembling" describe the behaviour expected of the Japanese on entering the presence of their Emperor, when he was still regarded as a living god. Read more
Published on 7 April 2012 by Antenna
5.0 out of 5 stars 'All forms of beauty are poignant. Japanese beauty particularly so'
Amelie Nothomb has a real passion for Japan and the Japanese. Her story of working in Japan is peppered with one failure after another. She just never seems to get it right. Read more
Published on 10 Dec 2011 by Hazel Danielle Benson
5.0 out of 5 stars Fear and Trembling
I loved this book. Very witty and almost semi-tragic at times. I have been to Japan, but didn't even skirt the surface of the culture not speaking Japanese or being there for any... Read more
Published on 2 Sep 2010 by Rachel EM Firth
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
A humorous yet sensitive observation of cultural differences, conveyed in a charming style of narrative. Read more
Published on 10 July 2010 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't speak too ill of yourself, people will believe you.
A strange little book (132pp), this had me reading compulsively to see where on earth it was going to take me. Read more
Published on 1 Jun 2010 by Eileen Shaw
4.0 out of 5 stars My career was in the toilet
Literally, in the bathrooms on the forty-fourth floor of the Yumimoto Corporation. This is some comedown given the narrator's early ambition. Read more
Published on 4 Nov 2009 by Sphex
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