Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 133
The Island at the Center of the World is an attempt to recover the story of America's earliest European colony: the Dutch colony of New Netherland, now the site of Manhattan in New York City. It eventuates out of thousands of pages of translated records of this early attempt at colonization, reconceiving of America's colonization as a power struggle between self-interested European parties from its onset.
The novel also reorients America's English-centric founding narrative around the Dutch people, showing how modern-day America could have just as easily been founded on distinctly Dutch conceptions of free commerce, religious liberties, and inalienable human rights. It focuses particularly on the story of a progressive Dutch lawyer, Adriaen van der Donck, portraying him as a lost founding father who could have been foundational to American political discourse.