Do you miss the daily grind and office life? This book will cheer you up


Kikuko Tsumura returns with a strange, compelling, darkly funny tale of one woman's search for meaning in the modern workplace. Photo: Handout

It would appear context is not necessary to Japanese author Kikuko Tsumura.

Her latest book There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job opens with the reader being plunged straight into the psyche of the protagonist, who has recently been hired into a surveillance job to observe a writer in his home.

Each passing page sheds a little more light on her purpose, personality and the situations she finds herself in, revealing not necessary context, but at least the reasons why she is in those situations in the first place.

It speaks volumes of a writer’s ability that you can be almost a quarter into the book and still haven’t quite figured out what it really is about, but you just can’t seem to put it down. That is owed much to Kikuko’s hilarious descriptions of specific things like facial expressions, food and grammar.

Given that the book was translated from Japanese, there is often a risk that certain prose and expressions can get a little lost in translation.

Translator Polly Barton does a fantastic job of retaining some of the more peculiar parts of Kikuko’s writing and in the process, helps accentuate the overall quirky feel of the book.

There is a certain charm to how Kikuko describes banal situations like heading to the convenience store to buy snacks, riding the bus and having lunch. She draws you in page by page by carefully peeling off each layer of the protagonist’s motivations until you are completely invested in the oddball situations she finds herself in.

There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job is one of those books that appears to be completely random and about nothing in particular but has more meaning than it actually lets on.

Through the five jobs the protagonist takes up in the course of the book, Kikuko managed to touch on a variety of underlying work-related issues, from career burnout, workplace bullying, organisational politics, work ethic and more, without making you feel like you are actually reading about them.

The protagonist remains unnamed throughout the book. You know her well, but you don’t actually know who she is. Perhaps an intentional move by Kikuko to allow the reader to immerse themselves more easily into each work scenario and to fundamentally ask themselves pertinent questions about the purpose of work and the meaninglessness of some aspects of our daily grind.

There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job is not a book for everyone. Its surreal setting, dark humour and lack of context can put off people who prefer their reading material anchored on something more solid. But for those of you who can completely appreciate the leftist elements of this book, it’s an absolute gem.

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