In a a poll of theTop works of Dutch literature of the 20th century , this book came top. However, their other choices seem very worthy. The site does not seem to have been updated since Part of the appeal of the book may stem from its origins. Reve came from an aristocratic Dutch family and it was expected that he would follow a military career. He hated war but still managed to obtain two citations for bravery under fire.
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Today we review a Dutch cultural classic which reached the English-speaking world for the first time last year. That is, until now. The first ever English translation of the novel became available at the end of , published by Pushkin Press.
In the Netherlands it has long been considered a post-war literary classic. So does it deserve all the hype? The Evenings was published in and is often prescribed as reading material for Dutch high school students. It is well known in the Netherlands for its sardonic humour. Its protagonist Frits van Egters muses on life, and desperately tries to fill his days and evenings with social visits to stave off boredom.
He enters into humorous, morbid and mischievous discussions with his parents and friends, in which he gleefully draws attention to their perceived faults, such as baldness or deafness. With its themes of isolation, frustration and need for communication, it is a book with which many people will no doubt feel a connection.
It is set during the ten days between 22 December and 01 January , in which time Frits flails around Amsterdam in search of friends and acquaintances with whom to sit and talk. Even when he has nothing to say, he comically forces the conversation.
He is reminiscent of an anthropologist, studying his own family and friends as subjects. Many of the conversations Frits has are superficial and meaningless. Communication is shown to be banal, needlessly offensive Frits constantly suggests his male friends are going bald , but strangely addictive. When he can no longer talk to his friends or parents, he talks to a toy rabbit in his room.
In a way the novel is like a precursor of the social media age, in which Frits is constantly seeking to communicate, no matter how pointless or exhausting this communication turns out to be. In the modern age, you can imagine Frits being the type of person who starts debates in the YouTube comments. For a post-war literary classic, however, it is notable that the War itself is barely mentioned. This glaring omission confused and angered critics at the time.
He is obsessed with death and infirmity. Each night he dreams terrible dreams about corpses and funerals and terror. Then he wakes and acts as if nothing has happened. It is as if Frits is trying to suppress traumatic memories, and perhaps his desperation for conversation is an attempt to distract himself from the ever-present memories of terrible events. The War is the elephant in the room, conspicuous by its very absence. However, in spite of its preoccupation with morbid themes, The Evenings remains a humorous book.
It is the dialogue, and in particular the juxtaposition between what Frits says out loud and what he secretly thinks to himself, that offers the greatest source of humour in the novel. It is a very funny book, in a dark and unsettling kind of way. A note on readability: The Evenings is by no means fast-paced. Yet as a portrait of the monotony of suburban life in post-war Amsterdam, The Evenings succeeds in entertaining.
If you were not already forced to read it during school, then The Evenings is well worth a look. Look for the moments of wry humour, the moments of fragility in the characters, and the moments of beauty especially in the redemptive final chapter. Not having read the Dutch version, I cannot comment on whether anything has been lost in translation. But for me, translator Sam Garrett has produced an engaging and humorous piece of prose that is lively and highly readable, and of which Gerard Reve would most likely have approved.
Read it for yourself and see if you agree. Did you read De Avonden at school? Do you love it or hate it? Is it the best Dutch novel of all time, or are there better ones? Let us know in the comments! Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
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The Modern Novel
And yet it is a magnificent novel. On Sunday, 22 December, we find ourselves on the first floor of an apartment building on the Schilderskade in Amsterdam. It is inhabited by the Van Egters family, which consists of a bookworm father, a grumpy and clumsy mother and their twenty-three-year-old son Frits, who is an office clerk. He fears that he will not make it to the last day of the year because everywhere he looks, he sees signs of decay. Hair loss is the main one. With every encounter with his married brother or his friends, their progressive baldness - real or imagined — is discussed.
See the full list. Jacob Katadreuffe lives mute with his mother, has no contact with his father who only works against him and wants to become a lawyer, at all costs. According to an ancient Indian tale a giant monster embryo residing in a crystal vase is predetermined to fertilize a blue-eyed woman. She will give birth to something evil to unleash