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The master of small things

David Mitchell’s fifth book, set in 18th-century Japan, cements his reputation as one of the finest English novelists writing today

By Julian Evans   May 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet By David Mitchell (Sceptre, £18.99)

“I got onto the wrong streetcar in Nagasaki in 1996 because I couldn’t read the signs properly. I ended up at a dowdy, half-restored Dejima [an artificial island constructed as a base for trade in the 17th century] and was fascinated by the place. So when I was reading histories of Japan later I would read those sections with greater interest. Then I read a book by Donald Keene, The Japanese Discovery of Europe, and it had lots of ends of possible novels that could be unpicked, unspooled.”

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