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The Factory

by Hiroko Oyamada

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797250,155 (3.07)9
The English-language debut of one of Japan's most exciting new writers, The Factory follows three workers at a sprawling industrial factory. Each worker focuses intently on the specific task they've been assigned: one shreds paper, one proofreads documents, and another studies the moss growing all over the expansive grounds. But their lives slowly become governed by their work--days take on a strange logic and momentum, and little by little, the margins of reality seem to be dissolving: Where does the factory end and the rest of the world begin? What's going on with the strange animals here? And after a while--it could be weeks or years--the three workers struggle to answer the most basic question: What am I doing here? With hints of Kafka and unexpected moments of creeping humor, The Factory casts a vivid--and sometimes surreal--portrait of the absurdity and meaninglessness of the modern workplace.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
It has that distinctively Japanese writing style, which I like. Very little happens in this novel, which is a statement in itself, but I just didn't enjoy it that much. I don't think it's objectively bad, it just wasn't for me. ( )
  widdersyns | Jul 19, 2020 |
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 book displays a fascinating underclass struggle in a modern, heartfelt way.

This is not a story told in a straightforward way. The author was either trying to experiment, or wanted to obscure timelines and narrators, creating a ghost-like cast spouting dream-like inter-office frustration. Absolutely unenjoyable. But I would read other books by this author, simply for the atmosphere. ( )
  LSPopovich | Apr 8, 2020 |
WTF just happened?
Interesting world, some funny moments, but...
I'm not sure if it was fully translated -- no shade on the translator -- but...
WTF just happened? ( )
  evano | Feb 23, 2020 |
I picked this up on a whim off my library's new book shelf. I found it delightfully surreal, confusing, bleak, and alienating. The book was just the right length for me to keep that alienation a good thing rather then a bad one, and the idea of being a cog in such a crazy large organization and finding the things you're doing are puzzling or seemingly meaningless is an idea that a lot of people can relate to. As with any work in translation, I'm know there are some places where I'm not getting the joke because I don't have enough knowledge of Japan, ( )
  duchessjlh | Feb 4, 2020 |
The factory is vast and all encompassing. Between its northern and southern components — joined by a huge long bridge over the river that flows through the factory — it has everything from countless restaurants, theatres, a bowling alley, numerous bus lines, some on-site accommodation, and more. So it’s perhaps not surprising for someone to find through the vagaries of life’s accidents that they end up working there. This novella follows three such characters: a young woman who gets assigned contract work as a document shredder, an engineer who is forced to take on a temp work assignment as a proofreader, and a botanist who is directed by his university supervisor to apply for a post at the factory as a bryologist (a moss specialist). None of them have ever really wanted to work in the factory, but here they are doing jobs that they are not entirely suited to. Still, it’s a living.

There is a matter of fact tone to the writing as we follow chapter by chapter the different factory lives of these workers. Things are sometimes a bit strange. But not so strange as to be alarming. Just a bit worrisome. However, over time (and time is a factor here), their engagement with the factory becomes more nuanced. Or stranger. And there’s something odd about the fauna.

This was an intriguing scenario. The writing reminded me of Magnus Mills crossed with Kafka. So, a bit alienating. Yet it was also a series of finely drawn portraits of these characters as their own existential anxiety comes to dominate their self-perspective and their relations with others. Not too surprisingly the various story lines cross before the end, but they do so in ways that are unexpected. And Oyamada also has a very curious manner of dealing with the dialogue, occurring at different times, yet mingled in the same paragraph. It forces you to periodically stop what you are doing and figure out who is saying that and when. Clearly deliberate, but to what end? I liked it.

Gently recommended for those willing to take on something just a bit out of the ordinary. ( )
1 vote RandyMetcalfe | Jan 23, 2020 |
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As I opened the basement-level door, I thought I could smell birds.
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