this is a paper which still asterisks the word t*t, even when it appears on the same page as a picture of the genuine body part, as though its readers beholding that central “i” in print might cause some catastrophic debasement of a culture it works so tirelessly to elevate

February 18, 2013 § Leave a comment


You’d have to be stupid to end up surprised that a novel called Number9dream is keen on John Lennon’s “philosophy”.  It’s just as well, then, that I’m used to my own intellectual fuck-ups because when David Mitchell’s narrator finally got round to the facile universalizing I was caught right out.  Hey, Mitchell, what’s going on?  How does this fortune-cookie bollocks square with the complications you’ve been dealing in till now?

His latest one, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which tells the story of its Dutch protagonists’ time on turn-of-the-19C Dejima, can’t resist a little bit more of the same.  Entertainingly, the writing is often in thrall as much to its own pressures as it is to the plot & its environs.  Just as nice is the fact that the Japanese characters are not at their most human when they’re at their most Western.  And yet Mitchell’s favourite Western characters – the ones who speak out against slavery, who for the bulk of the book don’t reach for the received wisdom – end up, when the going gets close to its climax, coming out with the following:

So little is actually worthy of belief or disbelief.  Better to strive to co-exist than seek to disprove…

Jacob sneezes again.  “I am making little sense.”
“One may make most sense of all when one makes no sense at all.”

There are more than faint shades of Murakami Haruki’s work over Mitchell’s.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Sergio Larrain

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