Three workers get jobs in a sprawling Japanese factory that is a society unto itself. A paper shredder, a proofreader, and a biologist — their jobs so mundane and pointless as to be suspicious. Oyamada's world of the factory is a unique blend of painfully ordinary and fantastical. What could so easily have become Kafkaesque or literary horror remains a subtle, yet surreal commentary on capitalist Japanese culture. I found its understated sparseness made the story captivating, and the magical realism was the perfect touch. Recommended By Amy W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The English-language debut of Hiroko Oyamada ― one of the most powerfully strange young voices in Japan
In an unnamed Japanese city, three seemingly normal and unrelated characters find work at a sprawling industrial factory. They each focus intently on their specific jobs: one studies moss, one shreds paper, and the other proofreads incomprehensible documents. Life in the factory has its own logic and momentum, and, eventually, the factory slowly expands and begins to take over everything, enveloping these poor workers. The very margins of reality seem to be dissolving: all forms of life capriciously evolve, strange creatures begin to appear… After a while ― it could be weeks or years ― the workers don’t even have the ability to ask themselves: where does the factory end and the rest of the world begin?
Told in three alternating first-person narratives, The Factory casts a vivid ― if sometimes surreal ― portrait of the absurdity and meaninglessness of modern life. With hints of Kafka and unexpected moments of creeping humor, Hiroko Oyamada is one of the boldest writers of her generation.
"Oyamada expertly weaves in a series of strange phenomena...creating an atmosphere of unease bordering on pernicious. But by refusing to give answers and instead letting the mundane and the uncanny blend together...Oyamada maximizes her puzzle. This nonpareil novel will leave readers reeling and beguiled." Gabe Habash, Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Tedium, meaninglessness, and alienation abound in this urgent but unsubtle fiction about the Japanese precariat." Kirkus Reviews
“Through these characters, Oyamada has crafted a titanic ecosystem of modern work life, complete with the obligatory never-ending office dinner with co-workers and the emergence of strange new species conjured up by the meaningless, enervating patterns of the 9-to-5 existence.”
About the Author
Born in Hiroshima in 1983, Hiroko Oyamada won the Shincho Prize for New Writers for The Factory, which was drawn from her experiences working as a temp for an automaker's subsidiary. Her novel The Hole won Akutagawa Prize.
David Boyd is Assistant Professor of Japanese at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has translated stories by Genichiro Takahashi, Masatsugu Ono and Toh EnJoe, among others. His translation of Hideo Furukawa's Slow Boat won the 2017/2018 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) Prize for the Translation of Japanese Literature. With Sam Bett, he is co-translating the novels of Mieko Kawakami.