Yoko Ogawa's The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.
He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem—ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory.
She is an astute young Housekeeper—with a ten-year-old son—who is hired to care for the Professor. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor's mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities—like the Housekeeper's shoe size—and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.
Ogawa (The Diving Pool) weaves a poignant tale of beauty, heart and sorrow in her exquisite new novel. Narrated by the Housekeeper, the characters are known only as the Professor and Root, the Housekeeper's 10-year-old son, nicknamed by the Professor because the shape of his hair and head remind the Professor of the square root symbol. A brilliant mathematician, the Professor was seriously injured in a car accident and his short-term memory only lasts for 80 minutes. He can remember his theorems and favorite baseball players, but the Housekeeper must reintroduce herself every morning, sometimes several times a day. The Professor, who adores Root, is able to connect with the child through baseball, and the Housekeeper learns how to work with him through the memory lapses until they can come together on common ground, at least for 80 minutes. In this gorgeous tale, Ogawa lifts the window shade to allow readers to observe the characters for a short while, then closes the shade. Snyder who also translated Pool brings a delicate and precise hand to the translation.
Customer ReviewsSee All
An elegant, simple novel about human connection!
The Housekeeper and The Professor by Yoko Ogawa is my first read for Women in Translation Month 2020. It is the story of a single parent housekeeper and her relationship with a former mathematics professor that can not take care of himself after a serious accident a few years prior. The housekeeper has a ten-year-old son named Root that develops a bond with the professor over mathematics and baseball.
Ogawa tells a beautiful, simple story about the relationships amongst the three principal characters and reveals how everyone needs connection to bring out the best we offer as human beings. The professor cannot hold memories beyond eighty minutes long, and how the housekeeper navigates to this peculiar personality issue is handled well.
Also, I liked how Ogawa dealt with the professor’s genius with numbers. She did a solid job of revealing his character beyond his gift and how his relationship with the housekeeper’s son grew over the course of the novel. The author did not present the professor as some kind of freak or object to be gawked at from the wider society.
If you are looking for a gentle, simple story that reveals depth of character, then I recommend The Housekeeper and The Professor. A good start to Women In Translation Month 2020!
The Housekeeper and the Professor
I read the book for the math, but it drew me into the story almost at once. A very curious relationship, but really intriguing. I enjoyed the book very much. And there wad some good math in it.
This book is a simple story about endurance, struggles of life, exploration, and bonds that can never be broken. It will enchant you.