NRC Live Reading Club: Louise O. Fresco
Director, scientist, writer and columnist Louise O. Fresco discusses Maria Dermoût's De tienduizend dingen (Ten Thousand Things) with the public, introduced by NRC Handelsblad newspaper's books editor Michel Krielaars. Fresco tells us why it is relevant and worthwhile to (re)read this Indonesian novel from 1955. She invites you to read the novel, and then join the dicussion on this afternoon.
The novel is a classic that inspires readers around the world to this day. When it appeared in the US in 1958, it pushed Doctor Zhivago and Breakfast at Tiffany's off the bestseller lists. It has been continually reprinted in the Netherlands.
The novel is set on a Moluccan island in the last stages of Dutch colonization. In it, Mrs. Felicia van Kleyntjes lives alone with her servants on a remote plantation by a bay while remembering the dead and the living.
The title of the novel is taken from a line from 7th-century Chinese poet Ts'ên Shên: "When the 'ten-thousand things' have been seen as one, we will return to the beginning and remain where we always were." According to Moluccan tradition, upon a person's death, the one hundred things by which he or she will be remembered are sung about: from the smallest things, such as the seashells at the bach, to the people that surrounded him or her. At the end of the book, Felicia sees her own "one hundred things" pass before her eyes.
Dermoût (Pekalongan, 1888 - Noordwijk aan Zee, 1962) was born on Java in the then-Dutch Indies, went to school in the Netherlands, and travelled between both countries her whole life. Her Indonesian years inspired her various stories and novels, such as De tienduizend dingen, a masterpiece that became an international hit. In Dutch