Tjibbe Tjabbes’ Voyage around the World
The panoplied glugg, the sail-slicer, the molochtite and the singing wartbear – there are plenty of weird and wonderful creatures in this book to challenge the translator and delight the reader. Tjibbe Tjabbes’ wereldreis (Tjibbe Tjabbes’ Voyage around the World) is a realistic eighteenthcentury account of a blood-curdling voyage of zoological discovery. It features a wide range of exotic species with marvellously inventive names, which were never found on Noah’s ark and which you won’t encounter in any biology books either.
With this book, Harm de Jonge is striding out in a new creative direction. His stories to date have been serious boys’ adventures on dry land, but now he wants to sail the seven seas with billowing sails – and all of the associated fisherman’s yarns and tall tales. “Nothing in this book is true, and even that’s a lie,” reads the message on the first page, loosely based on the words of that other great Dutch author Multatuli.
Tjibbe Tjabbes’ wereldreis begins on the east coast of Borneo, where the wreck of an old ship is discovered, enclosed in the ribcage of the enormous monster that swallowed it. Near the ship is a watertight chest containing a diary that tells the story of Professor Tjibbe Tjabbes. It emerges that Tjabbes set sail on the orders of two god-fearing Amsterdam merchants, who received a message from the Lord one stormy night: on 7 July 1777 there would be a new Flood. And this time two of every single species would be saved – no more, no less.
A subtle joke in the book is the name of the artist who accompanies the industrious professor on his voyage: Fiel Venius, better known in our time as illustrator Fiel van der Veen. It may be the first time in the history of literature that an illustrator of children’s books has actually been allowed to go on a voyage in an adventure story. This just shows how much Harm de Jonge and his illustrator must have enjoyed making this book. It’s an outstanding yarn and a book that you won’t want to miss.