The Employees by Olga Ravn: Nominated for the International Booker Prize 2021. This philosophical novel makes the reader piece its strange story together from a series of anonymous interview statements given by the titular employees—sometimes giving more and sometimes less information, but always evoking some yearning that is subtly destabilising them. Ravn presents the familiar juxtaposition of androids and humans, but adds organic objects that sit in a third position—somehow both inanimate and sentient, like a rock that is an animal—to talk about the fluidity of bodies, a certain transhuman horizon, and the ways bodies merge emotion, memory and place.
There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura—This a lovely read about finding meaning when you are too far out to swim back. A 36-year-old woman in Tokyo, suffering career burnout, moves through five random jobs, trying to find the one requiring the least effort or engagement. She finds something else. As people, buildings and businesses disappear and reappear, she finds stories, mysteries, passions and… well… comfort foods and yerba mate. She finds herself not alone in finding work confounding: a source of meaning but also obstruction. Tsumura is part of the new generation of women currently making their mark on Japanese literature. Here she is subtle, absurd and quietly acerbic; it’s a mood to dwell in.