Fear and Trembling

Amélie Nothomb

translated from the French by Adriana Hunter
St Martins Griffin 2001
A book review by Danny Yee © 2003 http://dannyreviews.com/
Amélie goes to Japan to work in the import-export division of Yumimoto Corporation, where, as she puts it:
"Mister Haneda was senior 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."
Amélie is not exactly a runaway success at Yumimoto, but she finds a niche for herself serving tea and changing calendars — until she incurs the wrath of the beautiful Fubuki Mori and is demoted even from that. Despite adversity she perseveres.
"Anyone else in my situation would have quit. But not if they were Japanese. Fubuki thought she had found a way of forcing me to resign, and hence lose face. Cleaning bathrooms was not deemed honorable in the eyes of the Japanese, but it was less dishonorable than losing face.
I had signed a year's contract, which expired on January 7th, 1991. It was now June. I would survive. I would do what a Japanese would have done."

A "comedy of Japanese business manners", Fear and Trembling (Stupeur et tremblements) ignores Amélie's life outside work, staying focused on her place in the Yumimoto corporate ecology, on her relationships with colleagues and her interactions with Japanese business psychology and ritual. Much of this relies on or reinforces stereotypes and it is hardly original or adventurous. But Nothomb presents it with verve, with a delicate touch and lively prose, and Fear and Trembling is great fun — and slim enough that it really can be read in a sitting.

January 2003

External links:
- buy from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
- review and links at the Complete Review
Related reviews:
- Amélie Nothomb - Loving Sabotage
- more French literature
- books about Japan + Japanese history
- more humour
%T Fear and Trembling
%A Nothomb, Amélie
%M French
%F Hunter, Adriana
%I St Martins Griffin
%D 2001
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0312288573
%P 132pp