Pushkin Press, £12
The Hidden Force, By Louis Couperus
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 03 November 2012
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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