MyFrenchLife™ French Book Club: Amélie Nothomb, Stupeur et Tremblements – September 2018
Calling all Francophiles, lovers of literature, and savvy challenge seekers. Have you ever dreamt of joining a French book club? Well, now’s your chance… Welcome to the MyFrenchLife™ 12-month French Literature Challenge 2018!
Every month this year, we challenge you to sit back, relax, and delve into one of our specially chosen French books! In September, we’re reading Nothomb.
Why take part in the MyFrenchLife™ book club?
Each month, we’ll be consulting our French literature experts to bring you a new and exciting French book review. We promise to dig deep and share our most intimate opinions, interpretations, and perceptions of France’s best literary offerings – and we’d love you to do the same!
Perhaps you can’t resist a challenge.
Maybe you’re still looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution.
This September, we’re continuing the challenge with a best-selling, personal story – Nothomb’s ‘Stupeur et Tremblements’.
So, let’s all pick up our books and let the reading commence! Join our online book club, join the reading, join the fun – and have your voice heard.
Introducing: Nothomb – Stupeur et Tremblements
Amélie Nothomb transports the reader to Japan in her autobiographical work, Stupeur et Tremblements. The novel describes her survival working in a Japanese business and the cultural differences she encounters as a white Belgian woman. The writer admits that the story itself is one hundred percent true, except that she has changed the names of the people and the company involved.
Nothomb: navigating the hierarchy
- Monsieur Haneda is the company’s president
- Monsieur Omochi is the vice-president
- Amélie’s boss, the beautiful Mademoiselle Fubuki Mori
- Monsieur Saito, the superior of Fubuki Mori.
From Nothomb’s first day, things do not go well.
Amélie is told to rewrite a letter multiple times. But she is unable to satisfy Monsieur Saito’s unachievable expectations. Quickly, Amélie learns that her only occupation is to make and serve drinks. Although this task pleases her, it also finishes in a failure.
When providing tea at an important business meeting, Amélie becomes the fascination of the Japanese businessmen, disrupting the rest of the meeting. Amélie is reprimanded for this.
Monsieur Saito reports that white women’s capabilities to master their language was a threat to these men. Amélie is then told to “forget” her Japanese, an impossible demand from Monsieur Saito.
Cultural differences in Stupeur et Tremblements
Readers are shown the unbearable difficulties Amélie must face, as well as those of her immoral superior, Fubuki. Emotions of fear, shame, anger, and even jealousy enrich the novel. This makes it the gripping page-turner that it is.
The text was originally recommended to me when I found myself living in a country different from my own, and one can clearly see why.
The beauty of Nothomb’s text is in the way she describes the Japanese language and its traditions. Readers find out the meaning behind certain words, phrases and even what life would be like to be in the shoes of a Japanese woman.
The text is short and contemporary, making it easier to read than a classic, longer French novel. This is due to the familiarity of modern French, as well as its occasional slips of jargon and everyday use of language.
Nothomb: a woman’s point of view
The female perspective in this novel is also what makes it remarkable. Not only do we gain Amélie’s perspective, but we see how disgracefully men treat the women in this company. Fubuki, readers are frequently told, has suffered to get the high position she wanted after a year of working there. The novel then explicitly shows only how true this is…
Lovers of Nothomb will recognise subtle references of her other works in the text, such as Métaphysique des tubes, another recommended read. It’s a fabulous way to read a gripping text in French, that isn’t going to overwhelm a language learner by its length!
Now it’s your turn – get involved here.
Let the challenge begin!
In true book club fashion, we’re eager to get together – if only virtually – and compare literary notes. Don’t forget to leave your reviews in the comments box and let us know what you thought.
What did you think of this novel or Nothomb’s work in general? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion box below!Image credits
1. ©Jessica Rushton
2. Amélie Nothomb, by G. Garitan via Wikipedia
3. Fear and Trembling, via Wikipedia