There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura
Translated by Polly Barton
Mrs Masako started down at the document in front of her and angled her head slightly. “It says, that essentially you’ll be working alone. Your predecessor was a man of forty-three, who is now off work with depression,” she continued, “the cause of fatigue was brought on by his search for a wife.”
THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS AN EASY JOB
In the COVID-19 world we live in today, we don’t have the choice in where we work, but in the world of fiction novels, we do. And in the first of Kikuko Tsumura’s novels to be translated into English, There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job, the main protagonist has some very specific requests when looking for a job at an employment agency she visits: it must be close to her home, and it requires no reading, no writing – and ideally, very little thinking.
She is sent to a nondescript office building for her first job, where she is tasked with watching the hidden-camera feed of an author suspected of storing contraband goods. But observing someone for hours on end can be so inconvenient and tiresome. She wonders how she will stay awake in a job so dull and tiresome.
She watches the screens, the footage on the left dated 22:00 from the night before, and the right dated 20:00 the night before that. In both clips, the author is wearing the same jacket, so without the timestamp there would be no way of knowing there was a day separating the two. ‘In the older footage, on the right-hand screen, he’d eaten a meal about two hours ago: fried eggs and ham, accompanied by rice cooked with hijiki and spinach miso soup. In the one on the left, from where yesterday, he hadn’t yet ventured from his computer.’
Already, I can feel the intentional dullness in the tone of the writing. The protagonist is so bored that she winds up watching more than she bargained for, becoming intertwined in the life of her subject. She refers to him as ‘the target’ and is aware of his every move, even when he receives his deliveries, like the cookies he receives, right down to the very flavours. It seems there isn’t much else to do, and she’s quick to admit that she has far too much time on her hands.
|Luis Villasmil, Unsplash|
When I read the plot for this book, I was really excited. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, Convenience Store Woman is one of my favourite books. I also absolutely adored My Year of Rest of and Relaxation, so when this one came as a recommendation based off of those I was delighted to read it.
Polly Barton is a Japanese to English translator currently living in Bristol, UK. Born and raised in West London, she studied Philosophy at Cambridge University before moving to Japan to teach English on a remote island. There she began to learn Japanese, and quickly became hooked. She has been working as a freelance translator for ten years now, specializing in literature, non-fiction books, and art-related texts.