Author

P.F. Thomése

By the time P.F. Thomése (b. 1958) won the AKO Literature Prize in 1991 for his novella collection Zuidland (Southland, 1990), he had already earned a reputation as a meticulous stylist with a sophisticated sense of humour, and an impassioned advocate of the primacy of the imagination in literature. In the course of his career he has developed an astounding range, from the intensely personal Schaduwkind (Shadow Child, 2003) – his literary response to the death of his young daughter – and the romantic tragedy De weldoener (A Girl of His Own, 2010) to the biting political satire of Vladiwostok! (2007) and the sleazy slapstick of J. Kessels: The Novel (2009). In 2015 he published The Underwater Swimmer.

The Sixth Act

The Sixth Act

(Querido, 1999, 278 pages)

In Het zesde bedrijf P.F. Thomése tells the life story of Etta Palm (1743-99), who was born in Groningen and lived in Paris as the Baroness d’Aelders. She was one of the first women to throw herself into the political turmoil of the French Revolution. ‘Etta Palm was a sort of Mata Hari of the eighteenth century,’ said the writer in an interview. ‘What attracted her to me were the clichés about attractive women who end up in politics – seduction, opportunism. She was supposed to have been a spy for the Prussians, the Republic of the Netherlands and the French.’

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Shadow Child

Shadow Child

(Contact, 2003, 112 pages)

This is a record in just over one hundred pages of P.F. Thomése’s thoughts and feelings following the sudden death of his baby daughter Isa, only a few weeks old. He dissects his own desperation. Not in any dramatic lament, but in precise, carefully worded notes. He divulges few details of the death itself. We are not told its cause or which hospital she was taken to. Shadow Child is the story of a search, a search for meaning, for understanding, for something to hold on to.

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Izak

Izak

(Contact, 2005, 176 pages)

Taking into account the name of the title character, Izak would seem to form a counterpart to Thomése’s successful previous book Schaduwkind (Shadow Child, 2003), in which he tells the poignant story of his daughter Isa, who died soon after birth. In Izak, Thomése explains briefly that Izak ‘was written with the same yearning to lose myself, to wander through an impenetrable wood and thus rediscover life.’ Of course, Izak has become a completely different book – it is a fairytale told by a small boy.

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Vladivostok!

Vladivostok!

(Contact, 2007, 295 pages)

P. F.Thomése broke through internationally in 2003 with Schaduwkind (Shadow Child), the heartbreaking story of the death of his newborn daughter, Isa. The contrast with his most recent novel couldn’t be greater: Vladivostok! is political satire about power shifting to the media, which, through polls and spin-doctored news, manipulates public opinion. Thomése has used pornography as his vehicle, reinstating this genre as the critical instrument it was originally in the eighteenth century. This vision combines power and porn, both as sinister as they are banal.

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A Girl of His Own

A Girl of His Own

(Contact, 2010, 292 pages)

A married man of about fifty. Half a life later, with a wife and son, he returned to his hometown H, where he was appointed acting town choirmaster. In the dark days before Good Friday, he finds a girl in one of his assigned churches – ‘a kind of grown-up foundling’. She has been left for dead. Full of devotion, he saves her life and then something happens that you read about in the papers: he decides, partly at the insistence of the girl herself, to hide her. She has already written her parents a farewell letter and can no longer return, she claims.

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The Underwater Swimmer

The Underwater Swimmer

(Atlas Contact, 2015, 253 pages)

The central figure in P.F. Thomése’s seventh novel is a haunted man who lives in the shadow of a boyhood trauma. At the age of fourteen he accompanies his father on a perilous night-time swim across a river from the Nazi-occupied Netherlands into liberated territory. The father disappears without trace and the son lives on, racked by guilt that goes on to shape his life.

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Translations

Website

http://www.thomese.nl