Book

Auke Hulst

The Mitsukoshi Consolation Baby Company

A gripping novel about parenthood, a robot girl and the desire for a world that can be fixed

Dutch critics have declared that The Mitsukoshi Consolation Baby Company is great storyteller Auke Hulst’s magnum opus. A compelling plot, deeply affecting scenes and philosophical perceptiveness coalesce naturally into a masterly address of the big questions of our time. Hulst’s limitless imagination forces the reader to face up to what is is to be human, to rise above our fate and discover the meaning of love.

The opening sentence of the novel is: ‘I wish I could do it all over again.’, crossed out. But crossing out isn’t the same as deleting, and that goes right to the heart of this sublime novel, which is about both the future and the past: the human desire to turn back time. The narrator’s core wound is that he missed out on being a father when his ex-girlfriend decided, against his wishes, to have an abortion.

The novel is set in 2032; so that he is able to be a father after all: a seven-year-old robot daughter is built for him. Scottie walks, talks and learns; her skin is indistinguishable from that of a real human girl, and she loves the man she considers her father. This leads to a series of scenes that are as heartrending as they are philosophical explorations of what makes a person, or, to be more precise, what exactly it is that we love when we love a person.

Hulst, a great fan of the work of Ursula Le Guin and Philip K. Dick, interweaves a breathtaking second storyline into the heart of this touching story: a sci-fi novel about a man who also missed out on his chance to become a parent and intends to travel back in time to put things right. He waits for his old self on a country road, kills him and takes his place so that he can do better this time around. It doesn’t work, though – after all, anything he changes could just as easily be undone by another time traveller further down the line. If the past can be tampered with, that also means nothing can ever truly be fixed.

These two complementary storylines in The Mitsukoshi Consolation Baby Company create an affecting portrait of the human condition: human beings as brave creatures that keep looking for a world that can be fixed. The novel culminates, fittingly, in a moving act of self-sacrifice: not by a human being, but by the robot Scottie, who tells her father, ‘Becoming attached is a human thing.’ It is a lie told out of love.

Put succinctly, Auke Hulst is a great writer and this book is, until further notice, his magnum opus.

de Volkskrant

One thing is obvious – The Mitsukoshi Consolation Baby Company is the culmination of Auke Hulst’s work so far.

NRC Handelsblad

Auke Hulst

Author and musician Auke Hulst (b. 1975) made his literary breakthrough in 2012 with his third, strongly autobiographical novel, Kinderen van het ruige land (Children of the Savage Land). He won the Harland Award two years in a row, for Slaap zacht, Johnny Idaho (Sleep Tight, Johnny Idaho, 2015)…

lees meer

Details

De Mitsukoshi Troostbaby Company (2021). Fiction, 607 pages.
Words: 192,492

Sample translation available

Publisher

Ambo Anthos

Weesperstraat 105A
NL - 1018 VN Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 524 54 11
Fax: +31 20 420 04 22

E-mail:
onaamani@amboanthos.nl
Website:
http://www.amboanthos.nl

lees meer