Christina Neuwirth’s debut novella Amphibian starts off chronicling the very regular life of Rose Ellis, who works in a company that sells Bonds and Promises. One day, she turns up to work to find that her floor at work has started to flood, all in a bid to boost employee morale and increase sales and productivity.
What follows is a hilarious take on the perils of corporate life – from the ridiculous decisions that management take, to the regular banality from colleagues, and the pure apathy towards corporate jargon. As the flood worsens day by day, people are forced to get creative with their clothing and their working styles – after all, it is hard to sit when your chair is floating on its back in the waist-deep water like a lazy swimmer. There is enough in the story for intrigue, as the reader wonders what will happen when the water rises over their heads.
Neuwirth’s work is satirical in nature, and greatly appeals to readers who work in corporate offices – the bigger, the better. It makes one stop and think through events and initiatives at work that people often take at face value.
Don’t be fooled by the small size of the novella – there is much metaphorical weight to it. It is difficult to pull off magical realism, but Neuwirth succeeds, her work at times reminiscent of Haruki Murakami’s. The complete ludicrousness of the situation is creatively dealt with by everyday normalcy.
This book does limit itself slightly in terms of the people who can appreciate it, as those without a similar corporate background might not clock all the nuances. But those who do will find this a thoroughly delightful, intelligent, and hilarious read.