J. Slauerhoff

Life on Earth

A spectacular adventure novel set in Shanghai

Slauerhoff drew from his experiences as a ship’s doctor in the 1920s when he wrote this spectacular novel set in China. Cameron, an Irish naval radio operator, meets a lieutenant who turns out to be an opium smoker, as well as a mysterious European woman in a Chinese dress, ‘like an overladen fruit tree’. He becomes infatuated by both the woman and opium.

The love story is framed by an exciting narrative concerning Cameron’s involvement in arms smuggling, masterminded by the criminal Hsiu. With bold and firm strokes, Slauerhoff paints the life of a European in China who is in search of a purpose, which he ultimately finds in life itself.

Slauerhoff wrote the book in 1933 and 1934, by which time he had gained sufficient distance from his own personal experiences (including the opium use) and was able to revisit the intoxicating romanticism of his adventure.

  • Cees Nooteboom presented a television documentary about Slauerhoff and wrote introductions to the Spanish and Italian editions of his work: La révolte de Guadalaja (Circé, 2008) and La rivolta di Guadalajara (Milan, 1999).
  • Translated into German by Albert Vigoleis Thelen.

His restless soul still shivers through in Dutch literature, incomparable to anyone.

Cees Nooteboom

J. Slauerhoff

The life of the ship’s doctor and poet Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (1898-1936) satisfies all the criteria for literary stardom. He was restless, adventurous, and intriguing, a tormented loner who suffered poor health and died young – a poète maudit in every way. ‘My poems are my only home,’ wrote…

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Het leven op aarde (1934). Fiction, 217 pages.
Words: 63,000

Themes: classic


Dutch Classics


Nijgh & Van Ditmar

Weteringschans 259
NL - 1017 XJ Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 760 72 10

[email protected]

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