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The Forbidden Kingdom by Jacob Slauerhoff
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The Forbidden Kingdom (original 1932; edition 2013)

by Jacob Slauerhoff, Paul Vincent (Translator)

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189592,142 (3.78)40
Member:apasiekoe
Title:The Forbidden Kingdom
Authors:Jacob Slauerhoff
Other authors:Paul Vincent (Translator)
Info:Pushkin Press (2013), Paperback, 193 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Forbidden Realm by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (1932)

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» See also 40 mentions

English (4)  Dutch (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
A very intriguing novel - one that makes you feel you should read it again to really get what was happening.

Slauerhoff mixes the historical story of the portuguese traveller and poet Camoës with a modern story of a ship's radiographer with psychological problems. As the novel progresses the stories becomes so intermingled that it begins to seem like the men are really one person, living in different times simultaneously. They travel through the same areas, encountering the same sites.

I really enjoyed the way Slauerhoff describes the areas and the hardships the men go through. He combines a harsh realism with a poetic style which makes for a great read.
His intertwining of the two stories is very well done - though it does get confusing at times. However, I feel like this confusion is in fact something Slauerhoff was intending - it matches the state of mind of the characters and gives the reader a sense of being inside their stories, rather than being a simple spectator.
The novel also gives an interesting view of historical China, the explorers who came there, and the life of Camoës. Simultaneously we get a view of the drab life on the ships of Slauerhoff's own time. ( )
  Britt84 | Sep 18, 2016 |
A young noble in 16th century Portugal looks for adventure and boards a ship towards the far east, but the adventure quickly turns sour. A young radio operator on board a ship in the 19th century drifts through life without a plan. Both end up in Macao and somehow their lives merge.

This was a very confusing read. At times the book was enjoyable as scenes came vivid to life - and then the story blurred without rhyme or reason. Not my cup of tea.
( )
  sushicat | Jan 14, 2016 |
This is a strange book that mixes history and imagined history with the magical (?)/psychological (?) merging of an early 20th century Irish ship's radio operator with a 16th century Portuguese poet imprisoned in Macao. The novel starts with a history that alludes to the "founding" of Macao, and then shifts to the story of the Portuguese poet, Camões (a real, and famous, poet, although the novel's story doesn't match his real life, at least as described by Wikipedia). With his story told both in the third and first persons, he is introduced as a courtier in love with the fiancee of the prince; exiled, and at odds with his dying father, he sets out to Macao but, when the sealed ship's orders are opened partway through the journey, he is arrested by order of the king. Thanks to a shipwreck, he escapes and is thrown into a series of troubles and adventures; throughout, he attempts to keep writing poetry. At the same time, the novel introduces various characters in the colonial ruling elite of Macao, their uneasy relationships with each other and with European religious movements, and their harsh rule over the Chinese populace. The story also turns on the estranged, half-Chinese daughter of the colonial ruler and on a grueling and ultimately failed trip into the interior of China, until then unexplored by Europeans.

Then, a little more than half-way through the book, the 20th century radio operator is introduced. His back story reveals that he has always felt like an outsider because he and his family looked like the ancient Celts, not the contemporary Irish. He signs on to a ship headed for Macao and begins to hear signals over the radio that are coming not from other radio operators but from elsewhere. When the ship is attacked by pirates, he is captured and, with others from the ship, marched to the desert and left there to die. Somehow he begins to merge with the historic figure of Camões.

Slauerhoff is an excellent writer, and I was totally absorbed in the tale, even when I was mystified by it and even when it bordered on the melodramatic and romanticization of the exotic. In fact, the novel relies a lot on the romantic tradition, at the same time that is resolutely modern in its approach to what is in essence a kind of time travel and a search for identity. The forbidden kingdom is not only the interior of China but also cross-cultural merging and the poetic as compared to the "real".

In her helpful afterword to my Pushkin Press edition, Jane Fenhoulet mentions that Slauerhoff wrote a "sequel" that continues the story of the radio operator; I would definitely read it if it too is translated into English, as I found this novel fascinating and thought-provoking.
3 vote rebeccanyc | Jun 13, 2014 |
Jan Jacob Slauerhoff's colonial world is one of loneliness and brutality. Trade is the exception when a balance of power does not allow violence or theft. In this dog-eat-dog world, Slauerhoff's protagonists struggle to survive far away from home in Macao. He weaves in the story of Portugal's national poet Luis de Camoes whose experiences in Asia are indeed worthy to be retold (all too brief, alas). His story is put into contrast by a (mixed race) woman's perspective. She also has to endure and survive in a man's world that does not cherish women nor people of mixed race. Slauerhoff's forbidden kingdom is bleak and full of despair. Better stay home next time, young man. The chances of being "Il milione" are too slim. ( )
  jcbrunner | May 31, 2012 |
Showing 4 of 4
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jan Jacob Slauerhoffprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fenoulhet, JaneAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lekkerkerker, K.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thelen, Albert VigoleisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vincent, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Voor Albino Forjaz de Sampaio
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In september 1540, toen Lian Po bijna achttien jaren had bestaan, kwam voor de Noorderpoort een keizerlijk gezantschap aan, dat wel de hemelse naam op zijn banier voerde, maar geen gastgeschenken bij zich had en in de lichtblauwe rouwgewaden ging gekleed. [Proloog]
God weet dat ik haar heb gemeden zoveel als ik kon.
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