Days Before Yesterday
A colonial coming-of-age novel in a sensual style
Evoking bygone days, putting memories into words that bring a lost world within reach, Maria Dermoût is in full command of the art of storytelling. She made her debut with Days Before Yesterday, which tells the simple story of a Dutch girl growing up in Java.
Living with her parents in a large, white house near a sugar plantation, she adores the tales told by her servant Oerip, which are permeated with the mysterious atmosphere of the Orient. One day her uncle and aunt pay a visit and she finds herself falling in love for the first time. At the same time, a new age is beginning; paradise is becoming a thing of the past.
The book was written at a historical turning point between the colonial regime and the emergence of an independent nation. Amid the upheavals, Riek tries to preserve her love for the landscape of her youth, but in the end she has no choice but to leave: ‘She would need time to lose it all.’