This collection of short stories became a great success and the young author was awarded the Anton Wachter prize. Far from being a form of self-expression, writing, Kellendonk says, is a form of study by means of the imagination. In the title novella Bouwval, ten-year-old Ernst discovers one day to his joy that he is able to have ideas, even though his first, during a family visit to his grandfather, is laden with doom. He had hoped he was the crown prince who would one day lead his family to fortune; instead, he learns that he comes from a branch of the family notorious for its liars and layabouts.
In the second story Achter het licht (‘Beyond Light’), Kellendonk gives his tragi-comic sense of caricature full reign. In the third, De waarheid en Mevrouw Kazinczy (‘The Truth and Mrs Kazinczy’), he again minutely examines the question of imagination versus reality. Van Stakenburg discovers that the letters he has been working on for his thesis are forgeries. His landlady Mrs Kazinczy shows him no sympathy and instead tells him the incredible story of her own life. What is imagination and what is reality? Where should one stand between the two? Kellendonk’s stimulating literary study raises intriguing questions.