Book

Joost de Vries

Old Masters

An adventure novel about two intellectual brothers with a fateful predilection for the past

The greatest tragedy in the lives of the two brothers Edmund and Sieger van Zeeland, is that they were born in the wrong century. In every other way, they are privileged: intelligent, gallant men who need no one but themselves. They both stumble into adventures that put their self-sufficiency to the test.

The story opens in Malta, where Edmund, a millionaire, delights in the historic buildings. His motto is a quote from John Banville: ‘The past beats inside me like a second heart.’ He has come to the island nation in search of Sarie, his brother Sieger’s wife, who works as a costume designer on a historical TV drama.

Edmund hopes that she’ll point him to the whereabouts of his missing brother Sieger, but meanwhile, he finds himself nearly falling in love with her. He follows her to Spain and Cuba and buys his way onto the series as an extra. This cinematic adventure comes to an abrupt end when, due to Edmund’s actions, the star of the show has a serious accident that brings the filming to a halt.

Sieger works as a magazine reporter. After the death of his boss and mentor Willem Verdelius, he feels less comfort­ able than ever with the changing priorities of the editorial staff. Dismayed by the changes, he complains, ‘Why doesn’t anyone want to write about majorities anymore? Lord knows there are a lot more of those.’ As everyone is searching for him, he goes to Berlin, where he witnesses an attack on a notorious Russian politician and art collector. Sieger’s investigation of the Russian’s role takes him to Ukraine, where he finds a scoop he doesn’t want to share with anyone.

Like Joost de Vries’s earlier work, Old Masters is an effervescent cocktail of satire and suspense. But in this novel, he adds a tragic note: the main characters’ nostalgic yearnings are constantly tripping them up in the modern world. To make things worse, they seem unable to empathise with others or feel connected to some higher power. These failings are brought home to them by the women in their life.

In a highly entertaining and moving style, Joost de Vries describes the experi­ ence of the white male intellectual whose relevance can no longer be taken for granted.

The brothers build up a personal past, their own edifice of memories. That makes Old Masters not merely a nostalgic spectacle, but a deeply human novel. Life itself, here and now – that will have to be enough, as the brothers learn from harsh experience. Fleeing into the past won’t work anymore, and in fact it never did.

Het Parool

Again, Joost de Vries has woven a series of coincidences into an ingenious, glittering web. Old Masters reminds me strongly of Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers […] because both offer a brilliant display of highbrow entertainment.’

Trouw

Joost de Vries

Joost de Vries (b. 1983) studied journalism and history in Utrecht. Since 2007 he has been an editor and literary critic at De Groene Amsterdammer. He burst onto the Dutch literary scene with Clausewitz (2010), a biblio-thriller inspired by the work of one of his great heroes, Harry Mulisch. In…

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Details

Oude meesters (2017). Fiction, 303 pages.
Words: 80,215
Copies sold: 4,000

Publisher

Prometheus

Herengracht 540
NL - 1017 CG Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 624 19 34
Fax: +31 20 622 54 61

E-mail:
r.palache@pbo.nl
Website:
http://www.uitgeverijpromethe…

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