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Book Excerpt: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

A no-brainer this week. David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet has burst on to the world lit scene, attracting raves from dozens of reviewers, including Kasia Boddy at The Telegraph and Dave Eggers at The New York Times. The latter newspaper also provides an excerpt:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De ZoetEvening of July 20, 1799

“How else,” demands Daniel Snitker, “is a man to earn just reward for the daily humiliations we suffer from those slit-eyed leeches? ‘The unpaid servant,’ say the Spanish, ‘has the right to pay himself,’ and for once, damn me, the Spanish are right. Why so certain there’ll still be a company to pay us in five years’ time? Amsterdam is on its knees; our shipyards are idle; our manufactories silent; our granaries plundered; The Hague is a stage of prancing marionettes tweaked by Paris; Prussian jackals and Austrian wolves laugh at our borders: and Jesus in heaven, since the bird- shoot at Kamperduin we are left a maritime nation with no navy. The British seized the Cape, Coromandel, and Ceylon without so much as a kiss-my-arse, and that Java itself is their next fattened Christmas goose is plain as day! Without neutral bottoms like this”-he curls his lip at Captain Lacy-”Yankee, Batavia would starve. In such times, Vorstenbosch, a man’s sole insurance is salable goods in the warehouse.Why else, for God’s sake, are you here?”

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