The Ten Thousand Things
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In Wild, Cheryl Strayed writes of The Ten Thousand Things: "Each of Dermoût’s sentences came at me like a soft knowing dagger, depicting a far-off land that felt to me like the blood of all the places I used to love.” And it's true, The Ten Thousand Things is at once novel of shimmering strangeness—and familiarity. It is the story of Felicia, who returns with her baby son from Holland to the Spice Islands of Indonesia, to the house and garden that were her birthplace, over which her powerful grandmother still presides. There Felicia finds herself wedded to an uncanny and dangerous world, full of mystery and violence, where objects tell tales, the dead come and go, and the past is as potent as the present. First published in Holland in 1955, Maria Dermoût's novel was immediately recognized as a magical work, like nothing else Dutch—or European—literature had seen before. The Ten Thousand Things is an entranced vision of a far-off place that is as convincingly real and intimate as it is exotic, a book that is at once a lament and an ecstatic ode to nature and life.
together, like the Leviathan and the palm-wine mannikin. When their guests passed the three graves at the edge of the wood, mother and son answered any questions with “oh, three children who died here in the Garden, a long time ago.” And no matter how far they wandered through the woods and the hills, without Sjeba none of them would ever come upon the spring with the bitter water. On those weekends the keys to the curiosities cabinet, the books of Mr. Rumphius, were “mislaid.” And who would
unpack, they could leave right away. Thus they had not been able to see a thing, only that there were four women: three old and ugly ones and one young slender one, but she had a dark veil around her face. The gate was locked behind the coolies; and after that no one was ever allowed into the Garden. And no one of its inhabitants ever went into town or even outside the gate. No one except the old woman who did the errands—she carried everything herself, paid cash, and never talked. When she
you sir, I ask you—” as if she were begging. At first the young man asked, “were you there, Pauline, that you’re so sure? How dare you make such a statement? Do you think that man has confessed and is risking his neck just for fun?” But when she repeated, the sailor—the knife—with that same dull certainty in her voice, he tried to quiet her: “Perhaps you think that the sailor didn’t go with his ship and is hiding somewhere? I’ll tell you what I’ll do, when the ship returns I’ll talk to the
quietly followed Matthew out. The young official and his wife remained behind in the front gallery with the tea tray. “Will Matthew be gone for long?” he asked. “He said a week.” “And Pauline?” At first the young woman didn’t answer. “And Pauline?” he insisted. “Pauline?” she repeated slowly and without looking at him, “did you think Pauline would come back? No, I don’t think Pauline will ever come back.” The young man and the woman suddenly took each other’s hands, and when a moment
themselves. After that, dimes and quarters were produced too, but the professor wasn’t too liberal with his polished dimes and quarters. Most of these trips Suprapto would forget, but one he would not. It was one of the earliest: from the town at the outer bay to the farthest point of the peninsula where one of the three rajahs with Portuguese names lived, a helpful man and himself an amateur botanist. A path along the outer bay with a surface of coral and shells which crunched under their