This romantic subject material is, however, given modernist form and presentation by Slauerhoff. It is the protagonist's personal crises and existential doubts that hold the centre, and even his identity becomes confused. Nearly two thirds of the way through, but prefigured in Camoes' dreams, the story starts to follow a second protagonist, an unnamed 20th century radio-operator working on run-down merchant vessels in the coasting trade. He and Camoes dream of each other's lives, which contain echoes of each other, and eventually their identities start to overlap, at one point leaving a man on the quay in modern Macao who is dressed in antique clothing and can understand only Portuguese and speak only English. This uncertainty in point of view is heightened by a narrative which switches backwards and forwards between first and third person.
Other aspects of the story include fragments of the complex colonial mosaic: the historical rise of Hong Kong, supplanting Macao; the role of contact with other cultures in shaping individuals; class differences — Camoes comes from a noble family, the radio operator from the poorest of Irish rural backgrounds; and the hierarchies of status and power. All of these bits and pieces, however, feature because of their significance for the central protagonist(s).
The Forbidden Kingdom (Het verboden rijk, 1932) draws on Slauerhoff's firsthand nautical experience and Camoes' obsessive poetising surely has an autobiographical parallel as well. It can be appreciated as a rollicking adventure yarn, a psychological study, and for its insights into the colonial experience.
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