Trin's Reviews > Stupeur et tremblements

Stupeur et tremblements by Amélie Nothomb
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's review
May 13, 2016

it was ok
bookshelves: fiction, belgian-lit, 1990s
Read in April, 2009

My reaction to this book probably says more about me than it does about the book itself. While I at times found Nothomb’s prose witty and the story in general to be consistently fast-paced and breezily written, the events it depicts frustrated me beyond belief. This autobiographical novel is about the horrible abuse Amélie suffers at a Japanese company where she’s originally hired as a translator and eventually demoted to bathroom attendant. You know how some people have an embarrassment squick, where they can’t stand to read about or watch people humiliate themselves—making the enjoyment of sitcoms rather tricky? I have an unfairness squick. Amélie’s treatment is just so appallingly out of line—and she puts up with it! I, on the other hand, squirmed in my seat and couldn’t enjoy this book at all. I might be interested in reading Nothomb on another topic, but this one made me vastly uncomfortable.
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Reading Progress

03/31 page 24
12.83% "Despite appearances, I am not actually reading this book in French. Alas."
05/13 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6)

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Writerlibrarian My feeling is that it loses a lot in the translation. A lot of the fun of this book for me is the play on words, the way the words sound together and the way she builts a sentence, the pace, the beat towards the end. I don't know that the spirit of her writing is kept in translation.

Trin That's probably true. (Oh, why isn't my French better? Alas!) Still, my main problem--and note I do say "mine," not "the book's"--was that I spent the entire novel feeling vastly frustrated with all the characters, especially the protagonist. You know how some people have an embarrassment squick and can't watch sitcoms? I have an unfairness squick. I can't stand it and the fact that this book was entirely centered around someone being treated unfairly (and going along with it!) made it very hard for me to enjoy it, even the witty parts.

Writerlibrarian I can understand how the way the main character reacts and acts would squick you. One thing I did find is that Amelie-San knows they are trying to get rid of her but she is stubborn in staying until her contract is finished. Although it is not explain why she is *that* stubborn in the book, we only found out years later when Amelie Nothomb published the other side of the story : Amelie-San's life at the time outside of her job.

Trin Is that what Tokyo Fiancée is about?

Writerlibrarian Trin wrote: "Is that what Tokyo Fiancée is about?"

Yes, she published that story in the fall of 2007 in french. It's the personal part of the story.

Trin We actually have the English translation in my store. Maybe I can read it during lunch breaks? ;-)

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