The Beautiful Bureaucrat
By Helen Phillips
Though I have never completed a book by Kafka, The Beautiful Bureaucrat struck me as Kafka-esque. It is set in a vaguely dystopian, vaguely setting-less city, or suburb, or some outskirts of some better-but-not-great other place. The protagonist, a recently married woman looking for work, goes to work for a vague company, doing vague work. Which is not to say the book vague, just that everything feels blurry at the edges.
It’s a great, albeit short, book, with some creepy twists and turns and altogether upsetting aura. I liked the portrayal of the relationship, the protagonist and her husband, the way they were close but individual, the way that works out in life.
The way I came across this book is twofold: 1) I read a short story by Helen Phillips which I loved, I actually think it’s better than the book, and 2) I saw it selected at the Harvard Bookstore, where it was described as “like Murakami if Murakami could write women.”