21 October 2013

"The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet"

During my blogcation I had time to finish this enjoyable book.  You have to be patient at the beginning because there are lots of characters to meet, with many unfamiliar names, and lots to learn about how the Dutch operated their Japanese trading site and how the Japanese interacted (or not) with foreigners.

I'll defer any commentary on the plot, which after it gets going is quite interesting.  I'm surprised the book has not been made into a movie.  It certainly has all the requisite elements - including explosions.
"The novel won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize regional prize (South Asia and Europe); was long listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, was one of Time Magazine's "Best Books of the Year" (#4 Fiction), and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Walter Scott Prize."
Unfamiliar words encountered:  picul, snonky, palanquin, scratting, provedore, smatter, scull [cheat], vang, root-truckled, holystone, loblolly, ingravescent, cockchafer, carronade.

Interesting passages:
"Great men are greatly complex beings.  It's true that Linnaean taxonomy underlies botany, but he taught also that swallows hibernate under lakes; that twelve-foot giants thump about Patagonia; and that Hottentos are monorchids, p[ossessing but a single testicle.  They have two.  I looked.  Deus creavit, his otto ran, Linnaeus disposuit, and dissenters were heretics whose careers must be crushed."  (p. 123)

"He enjoys scraping his inkstone, mixing a few drops of water, and dipping his brush." (p. 234)

"I shall bring a dosage daily, sir.  Now for the bloodletting."  He produces a bleeding dish and a rusty lancet and holds the captain's forearm...Nash inserts the catheter to prevent scabbing..." (p. 339) (what would it have been - a quill?)

 "Surgeon Nash unscrews a corked pot.  "Pus is how the body purges itself of excessive blue bile, and blue bile is the root of gout.  By widening the wound, applying a scraping of murine fecal matter"- he uncorks the pot and extracts a mouse dropping with a pair of tweezers - "we can stimulate the discharge and expect and improvement  within seven days..." (p. 385)

"Oh.  Well, as my friend the dean observes," Marinus says, leaning on the rail, "we have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love..." (p. 395)

"Grote is our best merchant: he could sell sheep shit to shepherds."  (p. 440)

A gang of the topmen cup their mouths and shout at the acting chief, "Scrub, little Dutch boy, scrub scrub scrub!" and wave the reverse of their index and middle fingers... "Why do the English do that?" "I believe it all goes back to archers at the Battle of Agincourt." (p. 440).
Image of Dejima from Wikipedia.


  1. Replies
    1. The link I inserted has his name and a further link to a page about him.


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