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The Housekeeper and the Professor (edition 2009)

by Yoko Ogawa

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,8371613,786 (3.97)331
Member:deb80
Title:The Housekeeper and the Professor
Authors:Yoko Ogawa
Info:Picador (2009), Edition: Original, Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read 2012
Rating:****
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
    A Beautiful Mind: The Life of Mathematical Genius and Nobel Laureate John Nash by Sylvia Nasar (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  3. 00
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  4. 00
    Translucent Tree by Nobuko Takagi (marietherese)
  5. 00
    Naoko by Keigo Higashino (sjmccreary)
    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.
  6. 02
    The History of Love: A Novel by Nicole Krauss (Becchanalia)
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» See also 331 mentions

English (152)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  Japanese (1)  All languages (162)
Showing 1-5 of 152 (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 | Jun 6, 2016 |
The Housekeeper and the Professor - Ogawa
5 stars

1,2,3,4,5…. stars, because:

#1. This book was as pleasant to read as a garden in the early morning.

#2. The book is a triumph of quality over quantity. It’s one hundred eighty pages
(10 x10 80) of thought provoking questions concerning memory, friendship, the nature of family, and numbers, numbers, numbers.

#3.The professor reminded me of how much I enjoyed teaching math to young children.

#4. It reminded me how much I enjoyed my son’s Little League games and sharing his interest in baseball.

#5. Ogawa gives her characters tremendous dignity. The housekeeper views her poorly paid job as a legitimate career and takes great pride in doing her job well. She goes to great lengths to allow the Professor to maintain his dignity despite his disability.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
A perfect little novel. A housekeeper goes to work for a math professor who, due to a previous head injury, can only remember things for 80 minutes. He can remember everything up to his head injury, but everything that happens after that can be remembered only for 80 minutes, and then it disappears as if it had never happened. He covers his clothes in post-it notes that serve as reminders for him. The most important one says "my memory is only eighty minutes long" and he wears this on his sleeve so that he always knows the reason why he is confused. He is a brilliant mathematician, and that brilliance is still preserved. He has an autistic-like familiarity with numbers and their relationships, and he imbues them with life and personality, and conveys this enthusiasm to his housekeeper and her young 10 year old son Root (nicknamed by the professor, for the square flat top of his head). Every time the housekeeper comes to work, she has to introduce herself to the professor. But they come to form a warm and generous friendship. She accepts his disability and works with it, and doesn't regard him in a lesser light for it. He opens up to her a new world of mathematics and shows her the beauty of it. The book is peppered with complex mathematical theories and yet they don't intrude. The author has presented them to us in the same way as the professor, so in a way she has become the professor, and we the housekeeper.
Despite the content, the story is never heavy or cumbersome. It always remains airy, evenly paced and quiet, very "Japanese". ( )
1 vote TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
This book has me torn. On the one hand it is a beautiful story about purity, goodness and friendship - a housekeeper takes a job cleaning for an ex-maths professor whose memory is limited to 80 minutes, and Ogawa wonderfully portrays the warmth of their friendship against the odds of having to meet again for the first time every morning.

The selflessness and caring nature of the housekeeper is very moving, and the Japanese culture of respect for the elderly is very evident - I'm not sure that such a premise for a book would work in a western setting where most people are too busy to have the patience and devotion to duty that the housekeeper demonstrates.

That being said, I had two negative issues with this book. Firstly, there are two threads of baseball and mathematics running through the book, neither of which I have any significant interest in. I normally love these kind of connecting webs in books, but they just went on a bit at times, and I found myself skipping whole paragraphs in places as a result.

Secondly, whilst this book definitely succeeded in developing its characters wonderfully, their polite friendship wasn't quite enough to tug on my heartstrings, and as a result the book fell a little flat overall. I did enjoy reading it, and the pages turned easily enough, but I have a feeling I will forget it fairly quickly.

3.5 stars - quiet and sensitive but a little underwhelming. ( )
  AlisonY | Apr 2, 2016 |
Nothing spectacular, especially if one is not a big fan of either baseball, math, or both.
Review: https://weneedhunny.wordpress.com/2015/08/03/the-housekeeper-the-professor-yoko-ogawa/
  zombiehero | Mar 25, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 152 (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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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
We called him the Professor.
Quotations
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.
Haiku summary

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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