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The Housekeeper and the Professor

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He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.

She is an astute young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities--like the Housekeeper’s shoe size--and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

180 pages, Paperback

First published August 1, 2003

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About the author

Yōko Ogawa

117 books3,351 followers
Yōko Ogawa (小川 洋子) was born in Okayama, Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Waseda University, and lives in Ashiya. Since 1988, she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction. Her novel The Professor and his Beloved Equation has been made into a movie. In 2006 she co-authored „An Introduction to the World's Most Elegant Mathematics“ with Masahiko Fujiwara, a mathematician, as a dialogue on the extraordinary beauty of numbers.

A film in French, "L'Annulaire“ (The Ringfinger), directed by Diane Bertrand, starring Olga Kurylenko and Marc Barbé, was released in France in June 2005 and subsequently made the rounds of the international film festivals; the film, some of which is filmed in the Hamburg docks, is based in part on Ogawa's "Kusuriyubi no hyōhon“ (薬指の標本), translated into French as "L'Annulaire“ (by Rose-Marie Makino-Fayolle who has translated numerous works by Ogawa, as well as works by Akira Yoshimura and by Ranpo Edogawa, into French).

Kenzaburō Ōe has said, 'Yōko Ogawa is able to give expression to the most subtle workings of human psychology in prose that is gentle yet penetrating.' The subtlety in part lies in the fact that Ogawa's characters often seem not to know why they are doing what they are doing. She works by accumulation of detail, a technique that is perhaps more successful in her shorter works; the slow pace of development in the longer works requires something of a deus ex machina to end them. The reader is presented with an acute description of what the protagonists, mostly but not always female, observe and feel and their somewhat alienated self-observations, some of which is a reflection of Japanese society and especially women's roles within in it. The tone of her works varies, across the works and sometimes within the longer works, from the surreal, through the grotesque and the--sometimes grotesquely--humorous, to the psychologically ambiguous and even disturbing.

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