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There's No Such Thing as an Easy Job


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Convenience Store Woman meets My Year of Rest and Relaxation in this strange, compelling, darkly funny tale of one woman’s search for meaning in the modern workplace

About the Author

Kikuko Tsumura was born in Osaka, Japan, where she still lives today. In her first job out of college, Tsumura experienced workplace harassment and quit after ten months to retrain and find another position, an experience that inspired her to write stories about young workers. She has won numerous Japanese literary awards including the Akutagawa Prize and the Noma Literary New Face Prize, and her first short story translated into English, 'The Water Tower and the Turtle', won a PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology recognized Tsumura's work with a New Artist award in 2016. There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job is her first novel to be translated into English. Polly Barton is a translator of Japanese literature and non-fiction, based in the UK. Stories she has translated have appeared in Words Without Borders, Granta and The White Review. Full-length translations include Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki and Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda. After being awarded the 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize, she is currently working on a non-fiction book entitled Fifty Sounds.


Tsumura’s portrait of the daily grind is spot-on, her observations wryly tender. Polly Barton’s translation captures the deadpan absurdity and subtle surrealism in this inventive Japanese novel
*Mail on Sunday*

Ultimately, it is through the winding process of self-repair that we get to share in the character’s journey of self-understanding in this altogether human novel
*Irish Times, Best New Translated Novels 2020*

‘An irreverent but thoughtful voice, with light echoes of Haruki Murakami ... the book is uncannily timely ... a novel as smart as is quietly funny
*Financial Times*

Polly Barton’s translation skilfully captures the protagonist’s dejected, anxious voice and her deadpan humour ... imaginative and unusual
*Times Literary Supplement*

I have never read such relatable writing about the small stresses of working and how they can feel like disasters at the time. She captures the small apocalypse of an admired colleague leaving, or the sense of powerlessness when a higher-up interferes
*i paper*

Surreal, wickedly funny … it feels pretty timely, as we consider the workplace and the purpose of work in our lives at a time of cultural and societal upheaval ... We move through absurdist tableaux and moments of deadpan, existential drama, but it’s Tsumura’s incisive eye on the small, everyday office stresses so many will find deeply relatable that kept me captivated. The neo-liberal work-life fantasy is obliterated so beautifully

Bringing to mind aspects of the terrific Convenience Store Woman, a surreal exploration of finding meaning in life
*i paper*

Surreal and unsettling

Translated in a droll and understated style by Polly Barton, part of the novel’s appeal lies in the narrator’s distinct worldview and her deadpan humor that allows the surreal, metaphysical connections in the novel to bubble beneath the surface of her seemingly dull, day-to-day existence
*Japan Times*

A fascinating, immersive novel about a young Japanese woman moving from one mundane job to another, searching for employment that doesn’t require her to think too much. But she soon finds out that no matter how simple her set tasks, there are intrigue, magic and the unexpected to each one. Fans of My Year Of Rest And Relaxation will adore this exquisitely deadpan book, adeptly translated by Polly Barton

A surreal employment odyssey ... Recommended for anyone missing time in the office

A brilliant riposte ... don't get mad, get even – and then get even better

A wise, comical and exceptionally relatable novel on finding meaning and purpose in our work lives
*Zeba Talkhani, author of My Past is a Foreign Country*

Quietly hilarious and deeply attuned to the uncanny rhythms and deadpan absurdity of the daily grind, Kikuko Tsumara's postmodern existential workplace saga both skewers and celebrates our deeply human need to function in society and keep surviving in an oftentimes senseless-seeming world
*Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti*

Read it before you burn out
*Asahi Shimbun Weekly AERA*

The fantastical flavour of this book is one of its charms … This is a masterpiece of a book about the working world
*Bunshun Toshokan*

Spending time in the author’s unique world, which seems so bizarre and random but is in fact artfully designed, I found myself healed and restored
*Asahi Shimbun*

Delightful and disturbing in equal measure ... Mesmeric, funny, wry, delightful – this is a novel to help the millennials find their own paths through the world they’ve inherited

Tsumura’s novel is a pleasing, quietly enjoyable slice of fiction with a message for those who give themselves entirely to work, no matter how rewarding it may be
*A Life In Books*

Completely different to anything I’ve read before ... there is an almost dreamlike feeling to the story
*Life With All the Books*

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