The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (cover).jpg
First edition
AuthorDavid Mitchell
CountryUnited Kingdom
Publication date
13 May 2010
Media typePrint (Hardback)

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, first published in 2010, is the fifth novel by British author David Mitchell.[1] 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.[1] 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." [1]

The origins of the novel can be found in 1994 when Mitchell was backpacking in western Japan while on a teaching trip.[1] 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."[1]

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 bugyō) [ja].[2] The main character, Jacob de Zoet, bears some resemblance to the real-life Hendrik Doeff, who wrote a memoir about his time in Dejima.[3]

Late in the book, "land of a thousand autumns" is described as one of the names used by the Japanese for Japan.[4]

Awards and nominations[edit]

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),[5] and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.[6] It was shortlisted for the 2011 Walter Scott Prize.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "How David Mitchell Brings Historical Fiction To Life", NPR, Weekend Edition Saturday, August 21, 2010
  2. ^ Tonkin, Boyd (2010-05-07). "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, By David Mitchell - Books, Life & Style". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  3. ^ Borghino, Jose (2010-05-29). "History and narrative gloriously entwined". The Australian. Retrieved 2012-05-16.
  4. ^ "maryb". "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (review)". Alone with each other ... Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  5. ^ The Top 10 Everything of 2010, Time Magazine, 2010
  6. ^ 100 Notable Books of 2010, New York Times, Nov 24, 2010
  7. ^ "Walter Scott historical fiction shortlist announced". BBC news. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 12 Jun 2011.

External links[edit]