notes on dutch literature

The Forbidden Kingdom

In Masters on November 7, 2012 at 9:51 AM

The Forbidden Kingdom - Slauerhoff

Jan Jacob Slauerhoff’s novel The Forbidden Kingdom, first published in 1932, is regarded as an important example of Dutch modernism. Translated from the Dutch by the award-winning Paul Vincent and published by Pushkin Press last August.

Review by the Guardian:

The Forbidden Kingdom is a romantic tale of adventure, seafaring and colonialism, told through an experimental narrative. Vincent’s translation presents a sophisticated form of double Dutch, as two parallel narratives slip back and forth, one concerning the 16th-century Portuguese poet Luis Camoes, the other a nameless 20th-century ship’s radio operator who describes himself as “the most rootless and raceless person alive”. Gradually, their trajectories are set on a collision course whereby Slauerhoff drops heavy hints they may be the same person.

It’s a confounding read, full of false starts, chronological quirks and unreliable narrators. The radio operator passes the time “constantly reading a book on the history of the three empires, which had the advantage that you never finished it, since by the end you had forgotten the beginning”. You lay this one aside understanding how he feels.

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