From The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet, chapter 2: Anchored in Nagasaki Harbour. Evening of the 20th of July, 1799

Dominating the shorefront is his home for the next year: Desjima, a high walled, fan-shaped artificial island, some two hundered paces along its outer curve, Jacob estimates, by eighty paces deep, and erected, like much of Amsterdam, on sunken piles. Sketching the trading factory from the Shinandoah’s foremast during the week gone, he counted some twenty-five roofs: the numbered warehouses of Japanese merchants; the Chief’s and the Captain’s Residences; the Deputy’s house, on whose roof perches the Watchtower; the Guild of Interpreters; a small hospital. Of the four Dutch warehouses, The Roos, the Lelie, the Doorn and the Eik, only the last two survived what Vorstenbosch is calling ‘Snitker’s Fire’. Warehouse Lelie is being rebuilt, but the incinerated Roos must wait until the factory’s debts are in better order. The land-Gate connects Dejima to the shore by a single-span stone bridge over a moat of tidal mud; the Sea-Gate, at the top of a short ramp where the Company sampans are loaded an unloaded, is opened only during trading season. Attached is a Customs House, where all Dutchmen except Chief Resident and the Captain searched for prohibited items.

A list at whose head, Jacob things, is ‘Christian Artifacts’ …

He returns to his sketch and sets about shading the sea with charcoal.

Curious, the oarsmen lean over; Jacob shows the the page:

The older oarsman makes a face to say, Not bad.

A shout from a guard-boat startles the pair: they return to their posts.

  1. Now you’ve made me want to read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet again! I plan to do so this year – this time picking up the Dutch version!

  2. I read this in June last year and I’m close to wanting to read this again!

  3. I’m re-reading The Thousand Autumns right now and I’ll be posting some more related images and texts here as I go along :)

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