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Object No. 31 of 50 — Significant Objects v3.

[The auction for this object, with story by Helen DeWitt, has ended. Original price: donated. Final price: $20.50. Significant Objects will donate the proceeds from this auction to Girls Write Now. This object was part of a collection curated for Significant Objects by Paola Antonelli; the story was co-published on]

I need an agent to deal with my agent. This was the thought. Bill was to be the buffer: Jonathan is a pathological liar, I am a pathological truth-teller, and Bill was to be the man-in-the-middle, the go-between, the Janus — something intermediary, anyhoo. That’s what middlemen are for. One day Bill resigned.

On a market stall I happened to see, oh how lovely! a SARS mask within a plastic envelope. You needed protection yourself, Bill; you needed your very own personal plastic envelope. And I didn’t know. And more to the purpose, because life must go on, here was a chance to practice my Japanese! The label included both English text and an enchanting title for the object incorporating both hiragana and katakana: よyo こko はha マma スsu クku. I didn’t know that masuku was Japanese for mask, Bill, did you?


Helen DeWitt is the author of The Last Samurai. She lives in Berlin and blogs at She is no longer represented by Bill Clegg of WME Entertainment.

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