There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura

There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job is a novel about looking for meaning and escape in the modern world, as a young woman looks for the most suitable job for her. After burnout in her previous career, a woman asks an employment agency for an easy job: namely, one that involves no reading, little thinking, and is close to where she lives. She finds herself sitting for hours watching hidden camera footage of an author suspected of having contraband in his home, in a job that is opposite where she lives, but she gets drawn into the author’s life and also into how she can manage her own life alongside watching his. The narrative follows her as she moves between suitable jobs found for her by the agency, ending up in absurd situations like writing bus ads for shops that seem to appear out of nowhere, but it doesn’t seem like an easy job is so easy to find.

This feels like a thoroughly modern novel, a fresh look at ideals of workplaces and fulfilment and looking for meaning as a young woman without direction. It is translated from Japanese and set in Japan, but a lot of the issues are universal, as she needs to find appropriate times to be in if she wants to get deliveries and deals with weird workplace politics. The book also has a fantastical sense, with the absurdity of some of the jobs and the weird circumstances bringing a kind of dark comedy to burnout and to modern ideas of what you should want from a job. It is amusing and clever, and easy to enjoy the eccentric characters, but also feel for the narrator, especially as the book draws to a close.

I don’t really want to say this is a very millennial book that captures a moment of people being consumed by work in different ways, but it’s hard not to want to write that. It has a kind of darkly comic existentialism about looking for meaning, even when the narrator is mostly looking for maté tea.