từ Gangraul, Uttar Pradesh, Ấn Độ
Exit Only Through the Sea Gate "The Thousand Autumns" is set in Nagasaki over a period of almost 20 years beginning in 1799. Dutch traders are restricted to an island in the harbour called "Dejima". From the Japanese perspective, its name reflects the fact that it is an "exit island". Dutch ships arrive at and depart from the sea gate, while the Japanese officials and traders access the island through a land gate. The Dutch are not permitted to enter Japan proper under the isolationist Sakoku policy. Thus, from their point of view, it is not a point of entry. As much as it represents the intersection of two cultures, it is more a place of confinement for the Dutch. Fan-shaped Dejima The Land of a Thousand Autumns Jacob de Zoet inhabits this point of intersection. Nominally an earnest and trustworthy clerk who manages the books of account, he is also responsible for communication with the Japanese. He learns the language in order to negotiate, record and translate contractual documents. As a result, he has the greatest opportunity to learn about and appreciate Japanese people and culture. He soon discovers that he shares an affinity with the Japanese translator Ogawa, one which extends to an affection for the midwife Orito, the daughter of a highly respected, but debt-ridden, samurai. A Scroll of a Hundred Things The novel begins with a birth and ends with a death. Orito is present physically at one and spiritually at the other. Both scenes contain some of the best writing I've ever read. In between is a tightly-plotted, present-tense, third-person narrative that exploits the full potential of the characters as well as the clash of cultures: sovereignty, politics, property, jurisprudence, economics, trade, wealth, translation, diplomacy, protocol, etiquette, desire, love, intrigue, piety, worship, pilgrimage, medicine, midwifery, motherhood, sisterhood and religious orders. This list might sound intimidating ("I could tell you a hundred things, and nothing at all"), but the tale prevails. Character and plot dominate. Post-modern gimmickry takes a back seat to a love story that is close to historical fiction. The Author's Creation Unfolds Mitchell describes love as an act of creation: "Creation unfolds around us, despite us and through us, at the speed of days and nights, and we call it 'Love'. Needless to say, the love is illicit. Ultimately, the novel is the only evidence of its existence. It documents the fans and drawings and scrolls that captured it at the time. Like all great art and desire, it is both perpetrated and perpetuated by words and images. Orito's fan (exchanged for a persimmon, (view spoiler)) The Ghost of Future Regret Still, it is "a story that must move...and misfortune is motion. Contentment is inertia." The "ghost of future regret" calls upon the infatuated Jacob to act impulsively: "I love her, comes the thought, as true as sunlight." Spontaneity struggles with rules. Orito acts within the bounds of tradition, uncertain whether she wants the life of "a Dejima wife protected by a foreigner's money". Then: "...the Land-Gate slams shut. The well-oiled bolt slides home." A Master of Go This is just the beginning. There is much to come yet. Only, unlike the game of Go that winds its way through the novel, there is no "clean board of lines and intersections": "If only time was a sequence of considered moves and not a chaos of slippages and blunders." You have to wonder whether this longing applies to the act of writing as well. A Well-Waxed Paper Door Between Two Worlds Mitchell's use of language is both highly functional and beautiful. Perfect sentences punctuate the action like jewels. Many have the aphoristic quality of haiku. He uses words like brush strokes: "A tiny girl skips Like a skinny frog around A persimmon tree." "Twilight is cold With the threat of snow. The forest's edges Dissolve and blur. A black dog waits On an outcrop. He senses a fox's hot stink. His silver-haired mistress Struggles up the twisted path. A dead branch cracks Under a deer's hoof Across the loud stream. An owl cries, In this cedar or that fir... Once, twice, near, gone." "The House may own me, But it shan't own Time." "To list and name people Is to subjugate them." "The soul is a verb, Not a noun." "Be less ambitious And more content." For the first third of the novel, I wasn't sure where it was going or at what pace. However, the brushwork soon cohered, until a vivid picture emerged and the dynamic became irresistible. I read on, eager to learn whether the gate between the two worlds would open again. I can't tell you, but I hope you get to enjoy the experience as much as I did. SOUNDTRACK: Teenage Fanclub & Jad Fair - "Smile" (from the album "Words Of Wisdom And Hope") https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-f0D... Steve Hackett - "Please Don't Touch" (Live) The first instrumental section (roughly 2.5 minutes?) is a piece called "Land of a Thousand Autumns". Mitchell reveals that this is one of the names Japan gave itself. The instrumental appeared on a 1978 album and precedes the novel.