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Fear and Trembling Paperback – 30 Nov 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (30 Nov. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312347324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312347321
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1 x 19.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,742,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"'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" -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Paperback.

Book Description

Fear and Trembling, by Amélie Nothomb, displays an elegant and shrewd understanding of the intricate ways in which Japanese relationships are made and spoiled. -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Paperback.

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A strange book, but unputdownable. It is obviously autobiographical, about the author's experiences as a new employee in a large Japanese corporation. A real eye-opener.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Literally, in the bathrooms on the forty-fourth floor of the Yumimoto Corporation. This is some comedown given the narrator's early ambition. "When I was little I wanted to become God... When I was about five I realized this would never happen." Never mind, next in line for the young Amélie to aim for was Christ, a dream which lasted another couple of years, when she set her heart on becoming a martyr. Despite these early setbacks, and despite demonstrating a less than godlike aptitude for arithmetic, she can still exclaim - looking down on the "glittering city far below" the forty-fourth floor - "I ruled the world! I was God!"

Just as well we're on her side by this stage of the story - there are few characters who could get away with such declarations without us throwing up either our hands or our breakfast. The absurdity, however, lies not so much in a young girl having male deities as role models but in her grown-up ambition to succeed in the masculine culture of a Japanese multinational corporation. Now that really is bonkers. As well as being female, early on she commits "the crime of showing initiative" and is accused of being an individualist ("the height of injury").

"Your despicable behavior" - says her superior - "is typical of Westerners. You put your personal vanity ahead of the interests of the company." That she is a white girl who understands Japanese has already been remarked upon in a derogatory way, and another boss has made the corporate hierarchy and her place in it very clear: "There is always a means of obeying. That's what Western brains need to understand." This degree of both racism and hemispherism is in part, I suspect, a novelist's hyperbole.
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