The Hidden Force, By Louis Couperus

 

Eerie, lush, psychologically acute, this Dutch masterpiece from 1900 (in a fine new translation by Paul Vincent) is one of the great novels of the colonial era.

Couperus was raised in the Dutch East Indies but looked on the settlers with the eyes of a detached, mystical (and gay) outsider.

He presents the downfall - or salvation? - of colonial officer Van Oudijck with the narrative cunning of a Maugham, the spiritual depth of a Conrad, and the delicate moral compass of a Forster. Their admirers will relish this classic passage to Java.

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