The photo series that Marco van Duyvendijk shot on the Chinese island of Gulangyu in April 2008 was inspired by the story Het Lente-Eiland (‘Spring Island’) by J. Slauerhoff of 1930. Working as a ship’s doctor on the Java-China-Japan route, Slauerhoff regularly visited Gulangyu, then known as Amoy. He also spent some time working at the island’s hospital. Het Lente-Eiland can be regarded as his prose debut. As van Duyvendijk reports in his introduction, Slauerhoff used reality to arrive at a minutely precise description of the atmosphere on Gulangyu and his own state of mind.
This is almost literally what we find in van Duyvendijk’s book. It has such a penetrating poetic and visual beauty that it is impossible to conceive of a better key to making Slauerhoff’s work tangible and comprehensible. The superb photography closely follows the poem with which the story ends. The typography, in combination with the Chinese characters, the wide line spacing and ditto margins, is almost sensual. The small format and choice of a hard cover and cloth spine, together with just the right weight of paper, help to create a wonderful tactile experience.
The only possible conclusion is that designer Rick Vermeulen has been brilliantly successful in bringing all the components together. The result is a precious gem, a book to cherish as a gift of the gods. Those in the know may have no need to be told, but for a new generation still unfamiliar with Slauerhoff this is an irresistible invitation to become better acquainted with him.