Fear and Trembling, by Amelie Nothomb

Cover ImageFinished 3-8-08, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 2002

“How could our business partners have any feelings of trust in the presence of a white girl who understood their language?  From now on you will no longer speak Japanese.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You no longer know how to speak Japanese.  Is this clear?”

“But it was because of my knowledge of your language that I was hired by Yumimoto!”

“That doesn’t matter.  I am ordering you not to understand Japanese anymore.” 

“That’s impossible.  No one could obey an order like that.”

“There is always a means of obeying.  That’s what Western brains need to understand.”

–from pages 11& 12

This is just one of the many hilarious exchanges in this short novel by Belgian author Amelie Nothomb.  The spunky Western narrator is aptly named Amelie as well  and this is a record of her year long experiences working for one of the  largest Japanese companies.  Living in Japan forces Amelie to adopt the Japanese way of life and work and nothing could be more charming than Amelie’s oft misunderstood actions.

In the business hierarchy Amelie is forced from one humiliation to another until she can fall no further.  It is only through her sheer determination not to lose her honor that she withstands her torment.  Her travails will leave you smiling and heartbroken at the same time.

Thanks to my Belgian friend, Virginie, I checked this book out of the library and read it in a few hours time.  Thanks for the recommendation.  I loved it!

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