Reading the Thousand Autums of Jacob De Zoet

I have just started The Thousand Autums of Jacob De Zoet, David Mitchell’s latest novel. It revolves around the man-made island of Dejima built by the Japanese in Nagasaki bay for Dutch traders, during the country’s prolonged period of cultural isolation between 1639 and 1856.

Here’s a rather charming scene of a Dutch dinner party from the period painted by Kawahara Keiga. Note the hook noses of the “southern barbarians” dining greedily on wine and huge plates of meat, their complexions as pale as porcelain. Notice also the Batavian servant in the background, beturbuned and barefoot and bringing a rather limp cut of meat to the table. It’s a fascinating period and a (so far) fascinating book