book review
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Book review: 『ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる』by 北川恵海

To get back on track after a small break, I picked a book I expected to be easy: 『ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる』by 北川恵海 (きたがわ・えみ).

I have already read another book by Emi KITAGAWA, which I liked very much, but I liked 『ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる』even better. I have only positive things to say about this novel, and I can only heartily recommend it to any Japanese learner (because it is easy to read) and anyone struggling with his work.

The story

As the title suggests, the novel is about quitting one’s work. The protagonist, Takashi AOYAMA is a young salaryman, who has been working for his company for 6 months. He spends most of his time at work, comes home only to sleep, has no friends, no girlfriend, no free time and only waits for the week to be over.

Now it is time to write something like “Then he meets a guy named Yamamoto and his life changes”, but it would give the impression that the novel is a kind of candid pursuit of happiness when it is much more than that. To put the record straight, one should say that the novel, instead of showing how you can change your life, shows instead how hard it is to do it.

Takashi AOYAMA is trapped in his situation and cannot find a way out. While his feelings are perfectly described, his personality and appearance remain loose so that it is easy for the reader to identify with him. I am sure that many people read their own story in this novel. After all, who never struggled with his work?

Personally, the beginning of the novel brought me back to the time when I was coming home from work at 10p.m every day and had a 20 minutes pause at lunch to eat something from a convenience store. I started having skin problems from stress, I suppose, and not getting enough sunlight. I felt that my work was taking my time and my health out of me, that it was in fact, taking my life away from me. I find that the novel captures and describes this feeling very well and I immediately felt involved in the story and the protagonist’s fate.

The very beginning of the novel gives a good idea of how this is achieved, and it will also show that the novel is not difficult to read in Japanese:

「六時に起床。同、四十六分発の電車に乗る。八時三十五分、会社に到着。席に座ると同時にパソコンの電源を入れる。
十二時から一時間の昼休憩。席を立ち上がったところで上司に声をかけられ、開放されたのは十二時十五分。歩いて三分の安いラーメン屋には長蛇の列。並ぶこと十五分。ようやく飯にありつける。注文が来るまで三分。湯気の立ち上るラーメンを胃袋に吸い込むこと五分。すぐに席を立ち、会社の玄関横にある小さな喫煙スペースで、缶コーヒーを片手に立ったままタバコを吹かす。この半年でタバコの量は二倍に増えた。ここでやっと、ホッと一息をつく。時刻はすでに十二時四十五分を経過している。
十二時五十八分、自分の席に戻る。十三時二十七分、本日三度目の上司の怒鳴り声。
十九時三十五分、やっと、上司が退勤。頼むからもっと早く帰ってくれ。
二十一時十五分、ようやく退勤。この時間になると、電車の本数が少ない。二十二時五十三分、帰宅。二十五時零分、就寝。以下、繰り返しx六日間。」p.6

Light novel?

I still don’t know how to define light novels, but I think that 『ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる』is one of these. All the elements at the periphery of the story have been reduced, and the novel focuses entirely on the protagonist and the plot. There are no descriptions or long narrative passages, the story turns around a few familiar places and situations. There are a handful of characters, with a lot of scenes involving only Takashi AOYAMA and Yamamoto. The working environment of Takashi is reduced to two main characters, and the reader is spared any complicated description of Takashi’s work. There are a lot of dialogues and frequent line breaks so that you never find yourself with a page stuffed with text.

It looks like if all the elements of context have been simplified to create a short novel (232 pages), easy to read while commuting or after a long day’s work. It naturally makes things easier for Japanese learners too.

Conclusion

I loved this novel very much because it really spoke to my heart. If you don’t have literary expectations and take this novel for the story and message it conveys, it really is worth putting in the hands of anyone who has a hard time at work, who needs courage and feel depressed. More generally, it is a nice story that will speak to a lot of people I think.

8 Comments

    • No, neither the Heisig nor the Conning’s method. I started on a base I had from previous Chinese learning and build up my kanji vocabulary from there. Now I don’t really learn the kanji for themselves anymore, I just learn words, if that makes sense… I mean that my starting point is not the kanji (and then I learn the words that contain it) but the word (and then I more or less learn the kanji in it). As a result, I can recognise and pronounce a kanji when I see it in context or in a word I know, but I am often unable to recognise a kanji if it stands alone.

      Liked by 1 person

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