Not the book I wanted to start with

But I’ve just finished reading Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb and I actually liked it. I have never been to Japan, nor worked in a Japanese company but I heard a bit about their work culture on economics classes. It is exactly the kind of a book I really enjoy: telling about something I don’t know, giving me some kind of an experience on living in different place and culture. Maybe even preparing me for an adventure on my own.

Amelie-san learns how to work in Japan the hard way, probably the way many Westerners do. Many accuse Nothomb of exaggerating and stereotyping the work culture in Japan. I see it a bit different way: it’s more like a struggle of a person totally unprepared to work and live in a world of strict hierarchy and tradition.

At the point of handling the resignation Amelie-san reveals that her father gave her tips on how to do that with respect. That fact may bring up some questions as why didn’t he prepared her to work there, and save her from falling down the ladder to eventually being responsible for changing the toilet paper in men’s room. Again, I see here a simple explanation: young woman, trying to live her dreamed life in a country she remembers from her childhood. I don’t think she was expecting any problems, she knew basics, just not enough to survive in a place so different than the one she had spent most of her life after all.

Amelie-san manages to stay in Yumimoto till the end of her one-year contract and save herself from losing face to Japanese eyes, yet for me it’s only half of the success.

I wish she didn’t give up on Japan after learning so much about that culture, she could actually have fully live the life she wanted with that experience. But then it’s only after you try you can truly decide if you want to do something, and in this case the experience was discouraging for the protagonist.

 

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