Maria Dermoût - The Ten Thousand Things
First published in 1955, The Ten Thousand Things was immediately recognized as a truly magical work. Maria Dermoût depicts the idyllic setting beautifully, and she handles the legends and darker aspects of the story, ghosts, superstition, even murder, with consummate skill.
On an island in the Moluccas (present-day Indonesia) a few old spice gardens are left. One of these is home to Felicia, the fifty-year-old descendant of a long line of Dutch nutmeg planters. Her parents and her husband and son are long dead and she has nothing left. At least, so she feels in her darker moments. In reality she is surrounded by a sea of things (her house, the forest, the river, the fragrances of the island) and a jumbled collection of memories and fantasies. Dermoût’s conviction that mankind is part of a higher plan is palpable throughout. A murder may bring great sorrow, but it cannot disturb the cosmic order that governs the animate and inanimate worlds.
Maria Dermoût’s novel was unlike anything Dutch (or European) literature had ever seen before, displaying a form of animism built not on primitive superstition but on a love that encompasses the whole of creation.
Maria Dermoût (1888-1962) was born Maria Ingerman on a sugar plantation in the Dutch East Indies and educated in Holland. She returned to the Indies with her husband, a lawyer, and spent thirty years living, as she later described it, ‘in every town and wilderness on the islands of Java, Celebes, and the Moluccas’.
- ‘Mrs. Dermoût, 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.’ - The New Yorker