Fear and Trembling by Amelie Nothomb


Fear and trembling by Amelie Nothomb 

Belgian fiction 

Orginal title – Stupeur et tremblements

Translator – Adriana Hunter 

Source – Library

Loving you is driving me crazy
People say that you were born lazy
‘Cause you say that
Work Is A Four-Letter Word

So change your life
There is so much I know
That you can do
Come and see …

I choose one of my favourite song by The Smiths work is a four letter word as it caught in part this book .

I decide a month or two ago to start adding a few books by writers I have enjoyed in the time I have been blogging ,to add depth to blog and to the list of books read ,so I read Amelie Nothomb’s The character of rain  three years ago and had a time want to try more of this talent Belgian writer ,this book like the character of rain is another book set in Japan Amelie Nothomb ,lived in Japan and was born there  in Kobe .The title of this book is a reference to how the average citizen should have felt when greeting the Emperor of Japan .

Miss Mori was at least five feet ten , a height few japanese men achieved .She was ravishingly svelte and graceful despite the stiffness to which she, like all Japanese women , had to sacrifice herself .But what transfixed me was the splendor of her face .

She was talking to me ,The sound of her soft voice brimmed with intelligence .She was showing me some files , explaining what they contained , and smiling. I was dimly aware that I wasn’t listening to what she was saying .

Amelie as she says is transfixed by Miss Mori on their first meeting .

The story of this book is a fiction Amelie going to work for a large company in Japan the Yumimoto corporation ,she has managed to get a job for a year with them .initially it is great she loves the way she is greeted by the people in the company ,but then she is put under the perfect Miss Mori .This is the point that things start to go wrong for the young Amelie ,because she just cannot do anything right ,she has hit the brick wall of Japanese etiquette and the way things are done .She eventually she her self doing less and ,less as every task she is given she seems to fail at in the eyes of the task perfect Miss Mori ,Amelie is also strangely attracted to Miss Mori and the way she is .Amelie ends up with one job sorting the toilets on the 13th floor of the building a toilet that just she and Miss Mori use ,even this she isn’t very good at in the eyes of Miss Mori .

I SPOKE RARELY in my new post , not because it wasn’t forbidden but because an unwritten rule stopped me .When your job is as dreary as mine was the only way of preserving your honour is by remaining silent .

Amelie on her last job the bathroom attendant .

What i loved about this wonderfully short novel is the humour that is there from the clash of cultures ,the western ideas of Amelie cut no way with Miss Mori .Miss Mori leaps of the page as a perfect example of a women in business in Japan she has to be better than the men beside her and above her this is what drives her perfection and in some ways the way she treats Amelie .Miss Mori has her own problems she is turning thirty in the new year and this is traditionally the time a women in Japan is expected to be married .Like character of rain Amelie Nothomb has a great way of casting an outsiders eye on Japan without turning it into a joke and a freak show that so many times happens when we view how Japan works .I felt Miss Mori could have been one of the figures of love from a Murakami novel ,she is just so perfect or tries to be .Amelie at one point imagines her and Miss Mori’s position as similar to that of David Bowie and Ryuichi Sakamoto in the film Merry christmas Mr Lawrence .

Amelie -san



I added this as it is the last lines a letter Amelie received just after her first novel came out from Miss Mori .

Have you a favourite book by a Belgian writer ?

10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Sep 23, 2014 @ 10:44:48

    Anything by Simenon! 🙂


  2. jacquiwine
    Sep 23, 2014 @ 12:19:54

    Is this story inspired by the author’s own experience of living in Japan? I see you’ve described it as fiction, but I wonder if the lead character, Amelie, is based (however loosely) on the author herself?


  3. 1streading
    Sep 23, 2014 @ 17:24:36

    I enjoyed your review. I love the way Nothomb plays with the line between autobiography and fiction.


  4. Col
    Sep 23, 2014 @ 18:31:38

    I enjoyed review and the conflicting feeling your comparisons gave me! I have an aversion to all things Morrissey believing he’s a talentless eejit (I’m sure he’s not too keen on me in return!). But I love Murakami and think Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence is fabulous – so on that basis it’s 2-1 in favour of Fear and Trembling and will add it to my list!


  5. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Sep 23, 2014 @ 18:59:50

    This was one of the first French translations i read as she is very widely read in France and a prolific author. This one is hilarious and is I believe not too far from her own experience, though perhaps slightly exaggerated. But an entertaining read and a real clash of cultures indeed.


  6. cergat
    Sep 23, 2014 @ 21:16:54

    “Fear and Trembling,” didn’t she steal the title from Soren Kierkegaard?


  7. Lisa Hill
    Sep 24, 2014 @ 06:31:17

    I will be visiting Belgium next year, Stu: are there any particular books that you think give a sense of the culture and its cities?


  8. Tony
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 04:26:04

    Not one I’ve tried, but the Japanese connection is intriguing 🙂


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September 2014


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