13 December 2011

I've stopped reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet at page 126.  David Mitchell tries really, really hard to scrub all Orientalism from his story, but the fact remains that he chose to write about a (married) white man falling in love with an unattainable Japanese woman.  This is supposed to generate some kind of deep human sympathy for the white man, and I won't go along with it. 

Doctor Marinus, the most interesting character, punctures the novel's own hackneyed sentiments in this piece of dialogue:

'It is not even Miss Aibagawa after whom you lust, in truth.  It is the genus "The Oriental Woman" who so infatuates you.  Yes, yes, the mysterious eyes, the camellias in her hair, what you perceive as meekness.  How many hundreds of you besotted white men have I seen mired in the same syrupy hole?'
'You are wrong for once, Doctor. There's no--'
'Naturally, I am wrong: Domburger's adoration for his Pearl of the East is based on chivalry: behold the disfigured damsel, spurned by her own race! Behold our Occidental knight, who alone divines her inner beauty!'