|13 May 2010|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, first published in 2010, is the fifth novel by British author David Mitchell. It is a historical novel set during the Dutch trading concession with Japan in the late 18th century, during the period of Japanese history known as Sakoku.
The novel begins in the summer of 1799 at the Dutch East India Company trading post Dejima in the harbor of Nagasaki. It tells the story of a Dutch trader's love for a Japanese midwife who is spirited away into a sinister mountain temple cult.
Mitchell spent four years working on the novel, researching and crafting a vision of Japan at the end of the 18th century. Small details, such as if people used shaving cream or not, could use up lots of time so that a single sentence could take half a day to write. "It was tough," Mitchell said. "It almost finished me off before I finished it off." 
The origins of the novel can be found in 1994 when Mitchell was backpacking in western Japan while on a teaching trip. He had been looking for a cheap lunch in Nagasaki and came upon the Dejima museum. "I never did get the lunch that day," Mitchell said, "but I filled a notebook with information about this place I'd never heard of and resolved one day to write about it."
Some of the events depicted in the novel are based on real history, such as HMS Phaeton's bombardment of Dejima and subsequent ritual suicide of Nagasaki Magistrate Matsudaira Yasuhide (Nagasaki bugy?). The main character, Jacob de Zoet, bears some resemblance to the real-life Hendrik Doeff, who wrote a memoir about his time in Dejima.
Late in the book, "land of a thousand autumns" is described as one of the names used by the Japanese for Japan.
The novel won the 2011 Commonwealth Writers' Prize regional prize (South Asia and Europe); was long listed for the 2010 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, was one of Time Magazine's "Best Books of the Year" (#4 Fiction), and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. It was shortlisted for the 2011 Walter Scott Prize.