In Tokyo, a Dutchman and a Belgian talk about the two faces of Japan—the European (exotic, pure) idea of the country and the real country. One is a diplomat, the other a photographer. The diplomat helps the photgrapher find a model with whom he documents the 'typical Japanese', complete with shots of Mount Fuji. He falls in love with the model and, over the next few years, returns of Japan as often as possible. He is in ruins, he neglects his friends, he feels disillusioned in the Netherlands. And when they meet for the last time and prepare to repeat the photo session at Mount Fuji, it is as if time as stood still—nothing seems to have changed, yet everything has. Mokusei! is not only a lyrical exploration of the beauty of Japan and the intensity of love but also a meditation on the very nature of time.
‘Mokusei! is an extraordinarily beautiful story, it is lightly told and yet layered with meaning and depth. It is a book which benefits from more than one reading. . . . [Nooteboom] has the strange capacity to evoke mono no aware, a beautiful kind of melancholy, whether he’s writing about Japan or the Australian outback or a suicidal man in Amsterdam. Mokusei! may be slight and delicate, but it is also strangely affecting and it left me thinking about it for several days, returning to a phrase or passage such as those I’ve posted here, wondering what it is that makes them feel so extraordinary.’—Biisbooks
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