In Wild, Cheryl Strayed writes of The Ten Thousand Things "Each of Dermout'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 Dermout'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.
About the Author
Maria Dermout (1888-1962) was born on a sugar plantation in the Dutch East Indies and educated in Holland. She then returned to the Indies with her husband, a jurist, and spent thirty years living in, she later wrote, "every town and wilderness of the islands of Java, Celebes, and the Moluccas." In 1951, at the age of sixty-three, Dermout published her first book, a memoir called Yesterday. Her celebrated novel The Ten Thousand Things was published in 1955. Hans Koning, born Hans Koningsberger in Amsterdam, came to this country in 1951 and established himself as an American writer in 1958 with his first novel, The Affair. Among his other novels are A Walk with Love and Death, The Petersburg Cannes Express, The Kleber Flight, and, most recently, Zeeland, or Elective Concurrences.
“Fans of magic realism will be thrilled to discover a long out-of-print Dutch classic...Dermout writes exquisitely and hauntingly of murder and loss, tolerance, and fear of “the other.” --LIBRARY JOURNAL
"Dermoût beautifully depicts the idyllic setting and handles the darker aspects of the story—ghosts, superstition, even murder—with equal skill." --Publishers Weekly, 2002
"An offbeat narrative that has the timeless tone of legend." –Time
"Mrs. Dermout, in the manner of Thoreau and the early Hemingway, is an extraordinary sensualist. But her approach is not the muzzy, semi-poetic one in which the writer damagingly affixes his own imagination to what he sees. Instead, her instinct for beauty results, again and again, in passages of a startling, unadorned, three-dimensional clarity; often one can almost touch what she describes." –Whitney Balliett, The New Yorker
"Beautiful and eerie" -–The Atlantic
"I might add that the books we return to are informed by potencies—those objects that illumine the text and our own memories. I am thinking of Maria Dermout’s magical The Ten Thousand Things." –Rikki Ducornet, novelist
"This [The Ten Thousand Things] is a beautiful book. What’s curious, you get the tone that makes you recognize that Michael Ondaatje is part of a culture, not simply a singular writer; he's part of a whole way of seeing reality." –Robert Creeley
"A son murdered by the head-hunters of Ceram. Three ghost-sisters playing on an empty beach. The curiosity cabinet and its contents. As the story circles on itself, they number in the thousands, so that anything once loved is eternal, beautiful, unchanged." –Linda Spalding, in Lost Classics