Best new translated novels, including one of 2020’s finest books
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Yan Ge’s writing is playful and darkly subtle. Photograph: Alan Betson
There Is No Such Thing as an Easy Job (Bloomsbury, £12.99) is the first novel by Kikuko Tsumura to become available in English. It is translated by the accomplished Polly Barton, who has also worked on the writer’s short pieces for Granta.
The narrator is a 36-year-old woman, recovering from career burnout, who is tentatively looking for a job that requires as little personal investment of thought, feeling or energy as possible. The fantasy of a low-stakes job is familiar to overstressed employees everywhere, but the writer resists a more obvious critique of soulless corporate culture. Instead, through a series of oddball assignments, we see the narrator trying to rebuild her confidence incrementally, looking to the workplace as a source of social contact and everyday creativity.