Monday, April 10, 2023

REVIEW: The Factory (book) by Hiroko Oyamada, translated by David Boyd

The Factory is, I guess, workplace literary fiction. Possibly surreal fantasy? I bought my copy new.


This relatively short work follows three characters: a guy who got laid off from his job working with computers and has taken a job as a temp proofreader at the factory; a woman who gets a temp job at the factory shredding documents; and a moss researcher hired to spearhead the factory's efforts at green-roofing. Each of them are doing what turns out to be meaningless jobs with no accomplishments, but they're being paid decently. As we learn about the three employees, we also learn about three not-quite-normal factory fauna.

Well, that was weird. Unfortunately, weird is pretty much all it was. There are no answers here, just questions.

I have no idea what I was supposed to get out of this. The author seemed to be making some kind of statement about meaningless work, but I couldn't figure out what. It seemed to tie in with the weird factory fauna somehow, but I couldn't really figure that out either. The best I was able to come up with was that Furufue, the moss guy, probably had some connection to the washer lizard, Ushiyama (the shredder woman) was connected to the factory shag, and the proofreader guy (who I eventually realized didn't seem to have a name) was maybe connected to the grayback coypu somehow. But did any of that tell me anything? Not really.

There were a bunch of intriguing things in this book - in addition to the animals, the passage of time was weird and inconsistent. It didn't feel like much time had passed at all for the proofreader or the woman who shredded documents, but somehow 15 years went by for the moss guy. Unfortunately, it all came to nothing, and my reading experience felt about as pointless as the characters' work.

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