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Recollections of Japan by Hendrik Doeff
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Recollections of Japan

by Hendrik Doeff

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The memoirs of the chief of Dutch trade in Japan, 1799-1817. A lot of David Mitchell's "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" was based on these very memoirs, which is why I picked them up.

This would have been great in Dutch.

It's merely good in English, because, unfortunately, it was translated by Annick M. Doeff, who is...well, hell if I can be bothered to find out exactly. She's married to a descendant of Hendrik Doeff, and does not appear to be a historian.

I can't tell whether the translation is biased, but I certainly can tell the introduction and notes are. I'll paraphrase. "Hendrik Doeff was a great, benevolent, intelligent, diplomatic, centuries-ahead-of-his-time man, the English were all evil, scheming jerks, and the Americans were awesomely fantastic and upright, just as we are today. Also, I won't actually use a capable editor, stick my footnotes in willy-nilly, randomly choose not to translate words that have perfectly good English equivalents, explain words that any person interested in history will know, oh, yes, and do so incorrectly." (No, Annick: a tabard is not a toga. And the Greeks did not wear togas, you're confusing them with the Romans. And a "tabard" doesn't need a f'ing note explaining it in the first place. Jesus H. Christ in a handbasket.)

So all that said: the words of Hendrik Doeff himself are excellent (even through this bizarre translation filter). Is it worth $22 (in 2010)? Probably not, unless you're extremely interested in Deshima.
  lipi | Sep 6, 2018 |
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