On Saturday June 5th, 2010 I was at Teylers Museum in my hometown Haarlem to attend an interview by publisher Lidewijde Paris with author David Mitchell on the occasion of the launch of the Dutch translation of his latest novel “The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet”.
The story is set around 1800 on the small artificial Island Dejima (Deshima, Decima) in the harbour of the Japanese town Nagasaki, a trading post of the Dutch East Indies Company VOC. The Dutch at the time were the only western people allowed in Japan during the Tokugawa period. One of the novel’s main characters, doctor Marinus, is based on one of the first directors of Teylers Museum, Martinus van Marum.
The event was more a smart and witty conversation between friends than an interview, although Lidewijde Paris tried to get wandering off David back on the right track a couple of times.
I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet the author whom I admire very much since I first read Cloud Atlas. I have actually used him as an example of an author in a couple of posts on my library blog.
This time however, David Mitchell gave me an idea for an entire new post when he explained about the way his “oeuvre” is constructed: every single novel is part of one grand work, and several “virtual” sub-stories and characters live their own lives within this intertwined pool of stories. This implies that a story is not confined within the physical or virtual boundaries of one volume. Interesting!
When afterwards I had the chance to have my copy of “The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet” inscribed, I tried to explain my idea to David. I did not expect him to hear everything everybody told him. But when I walked away and saw what he wrote, I noticed he had listened…
It was a very enjoyable afternoon.