The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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 actually want him to accomplish.
I've always felt the series of short novels from Japan speak to one another and had to laugh when one character, after thinking negatively about their job, counters with "at least they aren't working at a convenience store." (If you know the novel CONVENIENCE STORE WOMAN you will get what I'm saying.)
The concept of senseless work is heavy with dread but feels even worse in this setting. There are other things going on that are a bit confusing - animals that may or may not exist, a dangerous forest on the grounds of the factory, and the sense that in the overwhelming vastness of the factory, there are as many ways to inadvertently violate expectations in each little microcosm. The author communicates the stress of that very well.
While I received a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss, the book came out October 29, 2019.
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