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FEAR AND TREMBLING
I was born in Japan.
I spent my first 5 years there.
Leaving Japan
was for me a real uprooting, a real exile.
So much, that when I was almost adult,
I came back to live in Japan,
hence to work there.
I felt I could accept anything
to resettle in the country
that for many years I felt was mine.
This is how I tried to become a real
Japanese.
Tokyo, January 8, 1990
Mr Haneda was Mr Omochi's boss,
who was Mr Saito's boss,
who was Miss Mori's boss,
who was my boss.
I was nobody's boss.
So in the Yumimoto Corporation,
I'd be at everyone's "beck and call".
But I was proud of myself:
I'd landed a 1-year contract
as interpreter in a big Japanese firm!
The first morning, I jumped out the
window.
Miss Amelie!
Why didn't you tell Reception you'd
arrived?
I'm Saito, head of accounting.
Follow me.
I'll introduce you to Mr Omochi, my boss.
Please behave properly.
Excuse us.
That's Mr Haneda's office, the president of
Yumimoto.
You should never try to meet him.
This is your work station.
That's the desk of your boss, Miss Mori.
She's in a meeting.
She'll join you early this afternoon.
Gentlemen!
This is our new employee: Miss Amelie.
Do you enjoy challenges?
Do you enjoy challenges?
Yes.
Good. Here's one for you:
Mr Johnson has asked me to play golf on
Sunday.
Write a letter in English to say I accept.
Who is this Mr Johnson?
The exercise seemed easy.
I wrote a polite letter:
"Mr Saito is delighted to play golf
next Sunday with Mr Johnson,
"and sends you his regards."
Start over.
Had I been too friendly
or familiar with Mr Johnson?
I composed a cold and distant note:
"Mr Saito acknowledges
"Mr Johnson's request and will play golf
with him on Sunday."
Start over.
I wanted to ask what mistake I made,
but my boss didn't tolerate questions.
Start over!
I had to decide how to address
the mysterious Mr Johnson.
Start over.
I spent the next hours
composing missives to this golfer.
In the end, I must have tried
every silly permutation
of the words in that sentence.
Miss Mori is back.
You'll work with her this afternoon.
Meanwhile, get me a coffee.
A weak one.
Miss Mori?
I'm Fubuki Mori.
Please call me Fubuki.
I was transfixed
by the splendour of her face.
All beauty is moving,
but Japanese beauty
is even more moving.
Lily-white complexion, soft eyes...
a nose with inimitable nostrils...
lips so perfectly drawn...
The complex sweetness of her features,
and her manners, made her
a work of art that defied understanding.
Except for her amazing height,
Fubuki was Japanese beauty
to perfection.
Her face was like a carnation,
symbol of noble beauty
in ancient Japan.
Perched on her towering silhouette,
it was destined to rule the world.
Yumimoto was
one of the world's largest corporations.
Mr Haneda ran
the Import-Export department,
whose catalogue was truly titanic:
Finnish-Swiss cheese,
Singapore sodium,
Canadian optic fibers,
French tyres, Togolese jute,
they didn't miss a trick.
At Yumimoto,
money defied human comprehension.
Beyond a certain accumulation of zeros,
the sums ceased being numbers,
and became abstract art.
Good morning.
All these documents
were prodigiously dull.
I used none of the qualities
I'd been hired for.
Or knew what my role
in the company would be.
But I wanted to work
in a Japanese firm: I was in one!
Above all,
I was delighted with my co-worker.
To look busy,
I learned by heart
all of the company's employees,
and their marital status,
including wives and children.
The days went by:
Mr Saito asked nothing of me,
except to bring him cups of coffee.
In a Japanese company,
one's first job is the okachumi:
"The honorable function of making tea."
I applied myself to this role:
It was the only one I had.
For Mr Unaji, coffee with milk,
2 sugars, at 10 AM.
For Mr Mizuno,
1 goblet of Coke per hour.
For Mr Okada, at 5PM,
English tea with a hint of milk.
For Fubuki,
green tea at

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