Author

Jan Wolkers

Jan Wolkers (1925-2007) grew up in a large Calvinist family. After studying at the end of the war at art schools in The Hague and Amsterdam, he worked for a year as a sculptor in Paris. While there, he began to write and a short story was published in 1957. In 1961 Serpentina’s petticoat, his first collection of short stories, was published. This was followed in 1962 by Kort Amerikaans (Crewcut), his first novel, and in 1963 two of his plays were performed. By 1963, when Gesponnen suiker (Candyfloss) was published, he was established as a writer. The rawness of his work and his realistic descriptions of horror as well as tenderness, as in Een roos van vlees (A Rose of Flesh, 1963) and Turks Fruit (Turkish Delight, 1969), ensured a controversial press. Now the times have caught up with him and his books are no longer refused by school librarians. Guilt and punishment often play a role in his books, as does the link between sexuality and death. Terug naar Oegstgeest (Return to Oegstgeest, 1965), often considered his best book, is strongly autobiographical.

Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight

(J.M. Meulenhoff, 1969, 214 pages)

Turkish Delight (1969) opens in a sculptor’s squalid studio. The nameless artist has been distraught and angry since Olga, the great love of his life, left him a few years before. He cannot accept that she is gone and lies in bed for weeks at a time, fantasising about what he has lost. When not doing that, he takes his frustration out on other women. ‘I fucked one girl after another. I dragged them to my lair, ripped their clothes off and banged the shit out of them.’

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The Death’s Head Moth

The Death’s Head Moth

(De Bezige Bij, 1979, 255 pages)

Paul’s father has died. We find out about him through Paul and from comments made by his widow and his other children. It’s like turning the pages of a photograph album to learn about a person: a straightforward pater familias well versed in the scriptures, a keen fisherman. In contrast, his son Paul is a teacher who lives alone, has a grown-up daughter and sometimes resorts to prostitutes.

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The Peach of Immortality

The Peach of Immortality

(De Bezige Bij, 1980, 239 pages)

Jan Wolkers wrote the way he painted, with visual punch. He displayed great nerve in the way he set up a story, produced dialogue and situations that are vivid and original, and created fascinating, colourful characters. Above all Wolkers was master of the arresting metaphor, the image that leaves a lasting impression long after the story is over. The Peach of Immortality is just such an image.

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