Two men talk in Tokyo. One, a Belgian, is a diplomat. The other, Dutch, is a photographer. What, they wonder, is the real face of Japan? How can they get beyond the European idea of the nation and its people—with its exoticism—and see Japan as it truly is? The Belgian has an idea: he helps the photographer find a model to shoot in front of Mount Fuji as the “typical Japanese.” The plan works better than either had imagined—in fact, it works too well: the photographer falls in love, neglects his friend and his career, and, feeling out of place and disillusioned in Holland, returns to Japan as often as possible over the next five years. A reunion is planned: the three will meet again at Mount Fuji. Time, it seems, has stood still . . . except the woman has a secret, and plans of her own.
This moving novel of obsession and difference is the latest masterwork from one of the greatest European writers working today, redolent with the power of desire and alive to the limits of our understanding of others.