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The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko…

The Housekeeper and the Professor (edition 2009)

by Yoko Ogawa

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1,6921454,219 (3.96)320
Title:The Housekeeper and the Professor
Authors:Yoko Ogawa
Info:Picador (2009), Edition: Original, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read 2012
Tags:fiction, japan

Work details

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

  1. 70
    The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (labfs39, chrisharpe)
    labfs39: Both have incredibly well-drawn, quirky characters that are lovable in their unique humaness. Both have highly intelligent characters that are vulnerable because of their very gift. In both books I learned things in fields not particularly close to me: math in Housekeeper and philosophy in Elegance.… (more)
  2. 10
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    sjmccreary: Also shows an ordinary Japanese family dealing privately with an extraordinary situation. No baseball or math, but lots of great descriptions of Japanese life.
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» See also 320 mentions

English (135)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (145)
Showing 1-5 of 135 (next | show all)
Magical. I was enchanted and didn't want to be done with this novella. Even the ending was perfect. The only thing I noticed that other reviewers apparently didn't is that this would appeal to adults who grew up loving [b:The Phantom Tollbooth|378|The Phantom Tollbooth|Norton Juster|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388181422s/378.jpg|1782584]. It's numbers instead of words, and it's quiet with a small cast of mostly adults instead of a quest with lots of kids and immature folks, but it's still about seeing the world through symbols, organizing one's life for the sake of learning, and getting one's priorities straight for oneself instead of following tradition or others' expectations. Recommended to all considering it, but not to absolutely everyone, so 4.5 stars instead of 5. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
A young unnamed housekeeper is sent by her agency to work for a client who has gone through many housekeepers. Thinking he's a difficult man, the housekeeper finds that he's a former math genius who suffered severe brain damage in a car crash decades ago. Along with losing his career, he has spent the past seventeen years unable to hold memories for longer than 80 minutes. He remembers before the crash, but every morning the housekeeper must tell him who she is and go through the same introductory questions. Yet she, and her ten year old son, are able to draw life out of him in those short intervals and they discover some happiness together in their love of Japanese baseball.

I should have hated this story, with all the math theories and equations I would never understand, and then the baseball talk, but I liked it. It's a quiet, gentle book told by a woman with a very small life who still finds this poor and isolated man to have great value. ( )
  mstrust | Feb 6, 2015 |
This was a nice book. Its a sweet tale about a friendship between an aging math professor, a housekeeper, and her son. Even though really its more about the friendship between her son and the math professor. Despite being the narrator it felt like the housekeeper got pushed aside and forgotten by the other characters in the book. My biggest pet peeve about this book is that at times I felt that the housekeeper was treated poorly for no real reason. The son goes off on her and she just accepts that he's right in his perceptions. I would recommend this to someone looking for a light read. ( )
  Book_Minx | Jan 24, 2015 |
This short novel is narrated by the housekeeper of the title, a single mother employed by an agency, who is assigned a new client. He lives in a dingy two-room apartment, and his suit jacket is covered with reminder notes he scribbles to himself. This is the Professor, a brilliant mathematician who suffered brain damage in a car accident in 1975, and since then cannot remember anything for more than an hour and 20 minutes at a time. "It's as if he has a single, 80-minute videotape inside his head," the narrator explains, "and when he records anything new, he has to record over the existing memories."

What the professor can remember is mathematics. It is this mathematics that is presented in an almost poetic form, but also as a dialogue between the professor and his housekeeper, and with her son as well. The characters remain nameless, except the son who is nicknamed Root by the professor, yielding an allegorical feeling and you read the story. Yet it is also an intimate tale of a family that goes beyond that through an exploration of the experience of memory and the beauty of mathematics.
How do you form a relationship with a person who cannot remember you from day to day? The attempts to overcome the difficulties posed by this situation sometimes seem insurmountable for the dedicated housekeeper. Both she and her son grow and change during the story while the professor seems stuck in a stagnant loop due to his faulty memory. In spite of this he is able to relate well to Root in his own unique way:
“He treated Root exactly as he treated prime numbers. For him, primes were the base on which all other natural numbers relied; and children were the foundation of everything worthwhile in the adult world”

Eventually it is the housekeeper's dedication that leads to an unforeseen change in her relationship with the professor and provides a moment of suspense in an otherwise very straightforward story. The juxtaposition of mathematics with the personal relationships and situations created by the Professor's memory loss provide a unique metaphorical approach to what would otherwise be a mundane narrative.

This is a surprisingly poignant and emotionally uplifting narrative whose straightforward and lucid presentation masks a much more complex and meaningful tale. The book as a whole is an exercise in delicate understatement, of the careful arrangement into a surprisingly strong structure. The pure mountain air of number theory wafts gently through all its pages leading to pure enjoyment for this reader. ( )
1 vote jwhenderson | Jan 11, 2015 |
A lovely, sweet book. ( )
  JoePhelan | Dec 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 135 (next | show all)
Den mycket uppskattade japanska författaren Yoko Ogawa introduceras på svenska med en riktig hjärteknipare. Annat brukar det sällan bli när gamla, sjuka gubbar sammanförs med barn.
added by Jannes | editDagens Nyheter, Jonas Thente (Jan 18, 2011)
The narrator in Ogawa's mysterious, suspenseful, and radiant fable, the youngest housekeeper at the agency, knows that her new client will be a challenge: nine housekeepers have already been fired. But when she meets the Professor in his small cottage, she is intrigued instead of wary. A brilliant mathematician, he lives a surreal life. The elderly Professor can't remember anything after 1975. He can absorb new information and new experiences for 80 minutes at a stretch, then it is erased, and he has to start over. Quiet and kind, his jacket festooned with scraps of paper on which he writes notes to remind himself of what he always forgets, he spends his puzzling days solving highly advanced math problems and winning national contests. At long last, he has the perfect companions. The smart and resourceful housekeeper, the single mother of a baseball-crazy 10-year-old boy the Professor adores, falls under the spell of the beautiful mathematical phenomena the Professor elucidates, as will the reader, and the three create an indivisible formula for love
added by kthomp25 | editBooklist, Donna Seaman

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yoko Ogawaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Snyder, StephenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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We called him the Professor.
No matter how much time passed, I was always the young woman who made painfully slow progress with numbers, and my son would always be the boy who simply appeared, and was embraced.
I'm not sure why I became so absorbed in a child's math problem with no practical value. At first, I was conscious of wanting to please the Professor, but gradually that feeling faded and I realized it had become a battle between the problem and me. . . . At first, it was just a small distraction, but it quickly became an obsession. Only a few people know the mystery concealed in this formula, and the rest of us go to our graves without even suspecting there is a secret to be revealed.
But those things aren't the goal of mathematics. The only goal is to discover the truth. The Professor always said the word truth in the same tone as the word mathematics.
After all these years, I'm still at a loss for words to describe how purely the Professor loved children – except to say that it was as unchangeable and true as Euler's formula itself.
He treated Root exactly as he treated prime numbers. For him, primes were the base on which all other natural numbers relied; and children were the foundation of everything worthwhile in the adult world.
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Book description
There is actually a Japanese movie Hakase no Aishita Sushiki / The Professor and His Beloved Equation, that may be inspired by this novel.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312427808, Paperback)

He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem—ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. 

She is an astute young Housekeeper—with a ten-year-old son—who is hired to care for the Professor. 

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor's mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities—like the Housekeeper's shoe size—and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.

Yoko Ogawa's The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:18 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

He is a brilliant math professor, with a peculiar problem--since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only 80 minutes of short-term memory. She is an astute young housekeeper with a 10-year-old son who is hired to care for the professor. Between them, a strange, beautiful relationship blossoms.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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