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The Factory

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  1,564 ratings  ·  265 reviews
The English-language debut of Hiroko Oyamada—one of the most powerfully strange young voices in Japan.

In an unnamed Japanese city, three seemingly normal and unrelated characters find work at a sprawling industrial factory. They each focus intently on their specific jobs: one studies moss, one shreds paper, and the other proofreads incomprehensible documents. Life in the f
Paperback, 116 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by New Directions (first published March 29th 2013)
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Average rating 3.41  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,564 ratings  ·  265 reviews

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Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I did not get this book. The formatting is maddening. Not sure if it’s an ebook mistake or an authorial choice but it was not a pleasant read. And that’s fine. I appreciate experimentation. But this book is strange. It’s like the Seinfeld of a factory novel. There are some interesting lines throughout. I appreciate that this is a different kind of story. I appreciate the ambition and what the second half of the novel does. I am just not the right reader for it. You might be!
(3.5) In an unnamed Japanese city, employment is dominated by an an enormous factory – big enough to be a community in its own right. We explore its strange world through three employees. Yoshiko Ushiyama has always dreamed of working at the factory and is happy to take any role; she ends up as part of a team whose only task is shredding documents. Her brother is placed at the factory by his girlfriend, who works for a temp agency; he's assigned to a never-ending and seemingly pointless proofrea ...more
Elyse  Walters
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The job they assigned me was document destruction: operating a shredder all day, as a member of what they called the Shredder Squad. We were stationed at the far end of the basement floor, in a room stocked with machines made for destroying large quantities of paper. That was going to be my job—for 7.5 hours per day”.

As crappy as that - above job sounds....
I once worked in a sprinkler factory - in Israel ( the only worker not fluent in Hebrew, and 30 years younger than the other ‘all women’ wo
xTx xTx
Oct 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
i like japanese writers. this was an okay to good book. i picked up what she was putting down. i live this shit on the daily. i too am a black bird. i too smell the ocean.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rounding this up to four stars, I found the promise of this new author more interesting than the actual work which focuses on the factory as a source of alienation and depersonalization. I enjoyed the author's imagination and her skill at being able to change her prose style to propel the novel. For example, one employee has been hired to study moss for green-roofing factory buildings but is not given guidance and is instructed to conduct moss identification and gathering tours for children. A g ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Well, I hate the word Kafkaesque except in this case it really is appropriate - this slim translated novel is about three people recently hired to work at a sprawling, city-dwarfing factory, the kind that has bus routes and restaurants to support the workers (or is it to keep them there?) One woman shreds paper at a job she is overqualified for, one man is proofreading documents by hand and battling sleep, and one bryologist has been tasked with something both impossible and that don't seem to a ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ever wonder what would happen if Kobo Abe, Franz Kafka and Mike Judge teamed up to write a novella? Me neither. And yet here we have this little gem. A strange, dark and exciting work of industrial surrealism.
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was ok

I get what this was trying to do, but it was boring. I was hoping for super weird but this wasn’t it
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a slim work, only 116 pages in softcover. After about reading a third of it, it became no fun to read. It was boring and it was again one of those pieces of lit I just wanted to get to the end to be over with it. I don’t know why I picked this book to read…when going to my TBR list there was no hint (e.g., so-and-so from Goodreads gave this 5 stars, sounds interesting). 1.5 stars. 😕

There are three protagonists, and they all work at a monolithic entity called ‘The Factory”. It is never st
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-work
Have you ever had the urge to watch security camera footage of an office worker doing menial tasks? No? Well what if I said that the camera footage cycles through not one, but three office workers doing menial tasks, and sometimes the time code on the footage was messed up? Wait, still no? What a shocker.

Hiroko Oyamada’s The Factory is boring-weird, not interesting-weird. We follow three perspective characters, none of whom are engaging to read about in the least, as they perform pointless job
Nate D
Dec 03, 2019 rated it liked it
On the meaningless of work. A bit of Kafka, here, perhaps, but rather than Kobo Abe's modernist nightmare Kafka, this falls more towards the aimless peculiar calm of Can Xue. The threads touch, but only just, and then it all presumably goes on indefinitely, as such things do.
L.S. Popovich
This would have been a fun book. But the short sections are told through shifting first person perspectives, adding unnecessary layers of confusion. I wanted to read about Japan's Middle class struggles. It is hard to tell if this book is about jaded employees or hallucinogenic workplaces. Overall, it has intriguing ideas buried beneath unreadable paragraphs, lumbering under the weight of too many rhetorical questions and skittish internal monologues. Read Convenience Store Woman instead. That b ...more
Anita Fajita Pita

Much of my time reading this novel was astoundingly complimentary to the characters' emotions within.

I experienced astonishment, wonder, and absolute confusion with Furufue as he is brought onto The Factory's payroll to ... study ... moss? He is a one man team commissioned with covering The Factory with green roofing. Except, how can one research student straight from university accomplish this task alone? He doesn't know, and neither so I! But, he's a one of a kind university guy who specia
Jun 27, 2019 added it
No matter how many years I did this, the kids never made any more sense; they were utterly incomprehensible. "It kinda feels like a kitty," the girl said as she stroked the moss. Cats and moss are nothing alike. If you want to pet a cat, go pet a cat.
Christopher Turner
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
There is a sinister/claustrophobic tone to this novel but, because it never seems to pay meaningful dividends, it feels wasted. Never a bad book and not terribly written, the experience isn't awesome either.

Three characters essentially go about their day to day affairs within a giant, city-sized factory asked to do work that is the functional equivalent of the work-life of Sisyphus in hell. The characters do not grow or change. The plot is that they get hired and they work at the factory. The th
Big Al
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Emily Mason
Feb 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read this on my lunch breaks. I work for a large and seemingly omniscient institution where I search for missing books among stacks of literal millions and every day when I wake up I wonder, what am I even doing?
May 02, 2020 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia
I love surreal books but I decided to ditch this little novella even though I'm about 2/3 through.

I don't normally read kindle books (but am because of the current lockdowns) and this book threw me for a loop a couple of times because I thought there might be a formatting problem. A few different times, the timeline/action in the book changed in the same paragraph. It was jarring and strange and made me go back and look at the previous pages, trying to figure out if pages had been inadvertently
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
the first of the akutagawa prize-winning japanese author's books to be rendered into english, the factory (kojo) is hiroko oyamada's fiction debut (published in its original language in 2013). a slim, but satisfying tale set across many years, factory illustrates the lassitude and existential resignation that often accompanies the drudgery of meaningless, repetitive work. written from the perspective of three different characters, oyamada's story finds her subjects toiling with (and within) the ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Three separate individuals take jobs in a gigantic factory in an unnamed Japanese city. One woman shreds mysterious papers all day, taking papers from a never-ending pile. One man studies moss, for reasons not clear even to him. Another man proofreads documents that have nothing to do with the company. None of their jobs make sense although they perform them with the utmost seriousness, and their lives outside the factory are as inconsequential as their work. Oyamada based this award-winning nov ...more
Mitch Loflin
Jul 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
.....huh! Kind of maddening and hard to follow! There’s something about the tedium and futility of capitalism to parse out here, but also literally a tenth of this book is a fake science report by a child about animals that don’t exist which, as a writing choice...kind of iconic!
Allison Sesame
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
More like 3.5 stars. Very unusual and surreal. The style took a bit getting used to, but I liked it overall.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
“With hints of Kafka and unexpected moments of creeping humour, Hiroko Oyamada is one of the boldest writers of her generation.” So says the blurb. “Hints of Kafka.” Makes it sound like a bottle of plonk: not full-bodied Kafkaesque but Diet Kafka. I mean I get where the marketers are coming from—the name Kafka sells books—but what they’re really saying here is Kafka would’ve done a much better job which he would’ve. And, to be honest, so would Gabriel García Márquez. Unfortunately neither was av ...more
3.5 stars
A much more subtle weird than I was expecting but still enjoyable and well written.

Essentially, the novella takes an interesting and sly look at the modern workplace and all its absurdities with a dash of surrealism/Weird/Kafka added (and that's all you really need to know going in). The writing won't be for everyone as time jumps around a little bit and there's no line breaks for dialogue, but it's good writing nonetheless. I recommend reading the first chapter/few pages to gauge for
Melanie Strouse
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a satisfying read. It should be read in one sitting, and read slowly. Like other reviews point out, the author intentionally jumps between narrators and through time. I did have to go back and reread sections, which still didn't always clear up what was happening. The atmosphere inside this book is what I found most spellbinding. In a way, the individual characters themselves mattered very little, and at least to me, by the end they all kind of intertwined together. I was more interested ...more
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Probs more like a 3.75, but I really liked the unique formatting of how this unusual story is told; it will keep you on your toes.
Richard Thompson
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are strong elements of Kafka in the way that Oyamada plays with time and space, bureaucracy and transformation. The passage of a day, a week or fifteen years is all the same; the space of the factory expands and contracts in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics, particularly the bridge over the river in the middle of the factory where the strange birds live. The factory has rankings, hierarchy and levels of bosses, which are personified in the mysterious Goto, but Goto has no more co ...more
Charlotte Hyden
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
"Me and my work, me and the factory, me and society. There’s always something in the way. It’s like we’re touching, but we’re not. What am I doing here? I’ve been living on this planet for more than twenty years, and I still can’t talk properly, can’t do anything that a machine can’t do better. I’m not even operating the shredder. I’m only assisting it. I guess I’m working, but it actually feels like I’m getting paid money I don’t deserve, like I’m surviving on money I haven’t earned. It didn’t ...more
Will E
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting and sinister little novella about the symbiotic and exploitative nature of capitalism. The long and dense paragraph structure, and the embedded, chaotic conversations within, really contributes to the pervasive uneasiness-- a really effective marriage of theme and form.

Although Furufue isn't a baby boomer, it wasn't lost on me that there's a pretty stark criticism on the generational divide in our current era of late stage capitalism. People hired years ago get to slink along, asses
Luke Ryan
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really weird book. I liked it a lot. Only translated into English last year.

Story of three workers at a massive Japanese factory. They start off gung-ho for their jobs, but as time passes the monotony of what they are doing gets to them.

Some things that are odd in the book but I liked - No new line for each new speaker.

Time and the character being followed jumped around - sometimes in the middle of a page.... Took a little bit of getting used to but really added to the sense of being driven mad
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Hiroko Oyamada (小山田 浩子) is a Japanese writer. ...more

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