From the Publisher
“Elegantly written . . . Nothomb demonstrates a shrewd understanding of the intricate ways Japanese relationships are made and spoiled.” The New York Times Book Review
“[A] polished little satire.” The Wall Street Journal
“A scathingly funny novella.” Newsday (New York)
“Amélie Nothomb adds humor, the ingredient most often missing in other writers from France of her generation, the ingredient most difficult to translate.” Los Angeles Times
“An utterly charming, humorous tale of East meets West . . . Nothomb is a terrific writer whose writing style is simple, honest, and elegant. Very highly recommended.” Library Journal
“A sharp, satiric new novel . . . Readers are sure to be won over by her spare, self-deprecating and wise tale.” Publishers Weekly
“Highly entertaining . . . Fear and Trembling (a perfect title) is filled with both droll observations and wry bitch gags.” Kirkus Reviews
“There can be no doubt about Amélie Nothomb's talent: her imagination, energy, facility, fertility, her edgy use of language all prove that she is a writer of enormous gifts. Her writing is as sharp as a whip, the perfect antidote to sleep-inducing novels. She wakes you up. She shakes you up . . . Fear and Trembling will keep readers entertained and on the edge of their seats until the final page.” Le Figaro
“More than anything this is a beautiful love story--in which Sappho meets the Marquis de Sade.” Le Nouvel Observateur
“Fear and Trembling is Nothomb at her finest. Never has she been so daring or inspired . . . This book is a small miracle. On second thought, no 'small' about it; it is plain and simple a miracle.” Le Point
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following on the heels of her American debut (Loving Sabotage), Belgian novelist Nothomb's sharp, satiric new novel--winner of France's Grand Prix de l'Academie Fran aise and the Prix Internet du Livre--revolves around a young Western woman's humiliations at a Tokyo firm. At age 22, Am lie has just landed a bottom-rung job in the import-export division of the powerful Yumimoto Corporation. As a European woman raised partly in Japan, she is at once insider and outsider: she is accused of creating an "appalling tension" by speaking perfect Japanese while serving coffee at a meeting ("How could our business partners have any feeling of trust in the presence of a white girl who understands their language?"), and is ordered to speak only English henceforth. She is awed by her immediate superior, the beautiful and unusually tall Fubuki Mori (whose name means "snowstorm" in Japanese). Fubuki, 29 and still unmarried, has earned her position in the face of debilitating sexism and brutal treatment at the hands of her superiors, especially the ranting, obese Mr. Omochi. Kindly Mr. Tenshi gives Am lie a rare opportunity to prove herself by allowing her to work on an important report; enraged, Fubuki betrays them both, sealing the young girl's fate. Despite her intelligence, Am lie is unable to complete the Sisyphean tasks doled out by her superiors, and Fubuki eventually relegates her to cleaning the rest rooms. Nothomb maintains a humorous and effective detachment throughout--Am lie, for instance, finds comfort in a recurring fantasy of falling through one of the company's 44th-floor windows. Readers are sure to be won over by her spare, self-deprecating and wise tale, which contains many smarting truths about sexism and racism in Japanese society, and even more about the rituals of corporate culture. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Winner of many literary prizes in France, Nothomb (Loving Sabotage, Stranger Next Door) presents an utterly charming, humorous tale of East meets West in her newest novel about a young Belgian woman who works for a year in Japan, a country that she has revered and admired since childhood. At the Yumimoto Corporation, a huge export/import business, the chain of command is made very clear to her on a daily basis, and all initiative is snuffed out. After several crucial errors, our heroine's career ends up in the toilet, literally. Nothomb is a terrific writer whose writing style is simple, honest, and elegant. Very highly recommended for all libraries.--Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Mister Haneda was senior to Mister Omochi, who was senior to Mister Salto, who was senior to Miss Mori, who was senior to me. I was senior to no one.
You could put this another way. I took orders from Miss Mori, who took orders from Mister Salto, and so on up the ladder; of course, orders that came down could jump a level or two.
And so it was that, within the importexport division of the Yumimoto Corporation, I took orders from everyone.
On the 8th of January in 1990 an elevator spat me out on the top floor of a towering Tokyo office building. An enormous bay window at the far end of the landing sucked me over with the irresistible force of a shattered porthole on an airplane. Far, very far, below, I could see the city; it seemed so distant and unreal from that height that suddenly I wasn't sure I had ever even set foot there.
It didn't occur to me that I ought to introduce myself at the reception desk. Actually, at that moment, I didn't have a single thought in my head, nothing aside from fascination with the endless space outside the great bay window.
Eventually a hoarse voice from behind pronounced my name. I turned around. A small, thin, ugly man in his fifties was looking at me irritably.
"Why didn't you let the receptionist know that you'd arrived?" he asked.
I couldn't think of anything to say. I bowed my head and shoulders, realizing that in just ten minutes, and without having spoken a single word, I had made a bad impression on my first day at Yumimoto.
The man told me he was Mister Saito. He led me through huge, endless, openplan offices, introducing me to hordes of people whose names I forgot as soon as he had pronounced them.
He showed me the office that was the domain of his superior, Mister Omochi, who was enormously fat and terrifying, proving that he was the vicepresident of the division.
Then he indicated a door and announced solemnly that behind it was Mister Haneda, the president. It went without saying that I shouldn't even dream of meeting him.
Finally he led me to a gigantic office in which at least forty people were working. He indicated a desk, which sat directly opposite from another desk, belonging, he informed me, to my immediate superior, Miss Mori. She was in a meeting and would join me in the early afternoon.
I was just beginning to enjoy myself when Mister Salto interrupted me. He tore up the umpteenth letter without even reading it and told me that Miss Mori had arrived.
"You will work with her this afternoon. In the meantime, go and get me a cup of coffee."
It was already two o'clock in the afternoon. My epistolary exercises had so absorbed me that I had forgotten about taking a break.
I put the cup down on Mister Salto's desk and turned around. A young woman as tall and slender as an archer's bow was walking toward me.
Whenever I think of Fubuki Mori, I see the Japanese longbow, taller than a man. That's why I have decided to call the company "Yumimoto," which means "pertaining to the bow."
And whenever I see a bow, I think of Fubuki.
"Please, call me Fubuki."