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Fear and Trembling - Amélie Nothomb; Translated by Adriana HunterSee larger image
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Fear and Trembling



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About The Author

Amelie Nothomb

Belgian by nationality, Amelie Nothomb was born in Kobe, Japan, and currently lives in Paris. She is the author of eight novels, translated into fourteen languages. Fear and Trembling won the Grand Prix of the Academie Francaise and the Prix Internet du Livre.

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Reading Group Gold

According to ancient Japanese protocol, foreigners deigning to approach the emperor did so only with fear and trembling. Terror and self-abasement conveyed respect. Amélie, our well-intentioned and eager young Western heroine, goes to Japan to spend a year working at the Yumimoto Corporation. Returning to the land where she was born is the fulfillment of a dream for Amélie; working there turns into comic nightmare.

Alternately disturbing and hilarious, unbelievable and shatteringly convincing, Fear and Trembling will keep readers clutching tight to the pages of this taut little novel, caught up in the throes of fear, trembling, and, ultimately, delight.


1. The novel is a portrait of life in a Japanese office from the point of view of a Westerner. What seems peculiarly “Japanese” about the Yumimoto Corporation, and what things might or might not have happened in a company with headquarters in Chicago or Houston?
2. The relationship between Amelie and Fubuki Mori is central to the book. Discuss what bonds them and, eventually, what repels them. Are some of these reasons the same?
3. The novel gradually but inexorably becomes a battle of wills between Amelie and Fubuki, each refusing to back down and admit defeat. At the core is the whole issue of “face,” particularly the importance of not losing it. How do you feel “face” relates to what happens in the story?
4. Amelie wants desperately to become Japanese, according to her definition of what this means. Does she succeed by the end?
5. Halfway through the novel Amelie provides a long description of what Japanese women have to endure in their culture, and how their quest for perfection both drives and dooms them. Do you think women living in this country – particularly women working within corporate structures – share their dilemmas?
6. Why is Amelie so drawn to windows? Is she suicidal? And is Amelie a victim or does she bring about her own downfall?
7. Japanese women are held to high behavioral standards. Are Japanese men held to the same standards? Consider all the men in the novel, from the maniacal bully Mr. Omochi to the saint-like Mr. Saito. Does the strict adherence to hierarchy render them in someway powerless? After all, even the supreme Mister Haneda can only stand aside and let the excruciatingly embarrassing drama between Fubuki Mori and Amelie run its course.
8. This novel is based on a true story. What do you think the original Miss Mori, whoever and wherever she is, might have felt while reading Fear and Trembling?

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