In the general reading category this year’s panel, like many of their predecessors, were struck by a beautiful cover by Anneke Germers that stood out by its colour sense and composition. A new recasting of Jacob Haafner’s gripping and colourful tale of his travels in India in 1808, the book is in every respect superbly presented.
In its Feniks series publishing house Athenaeum–Polak & Van Gennep is breathing new life into Dutch classics by bringing the language up to date and where necessary abridging or rewriting them for modern readers. All Feniks volumes come complete with an informative introduction and an explanation of the thinking behind them.
In this case the interior was designed by Hannie Pijnappels, who also drew the four maps of the Indian coastline on the endpapers showing the places Haafner visited in his palanquin or litter.
On the dust jacket, which with its chromatic contrasts and dotted line ties in with the design of other classic Athenaeum series, we see a devadasi. This dancer in a Hindu temple – an engraving after a drawing by Haafner – is at the same time a reference to the love that the author conceived for one of them. Besides being a portrait of Indian mores and customs, however, the book is also an indictment of European colonialism.