Jeroen Brouwers

Sunken Red

An adult male examines his relationship with his mother shortly after she has died in an old people’s home. He has had no contact with her for a number of years. He goes back in his mind to the Japanese POW camp where he, his mother, little sister and grandmother were all interned.

He describes ‘the hunger, the diseases, the suffering, death. And all the rest besides.’ Having been reminded of the hell that the camp was, ‘a haze of sunken red’ has descended over his eyes. What he cannot forgive in himself is the eagerness with which he looked on at all that happened as a young camp-child: ‘My camp syndrome consists of the bad conscience I now have towards the voracious toddler I was who desired so fervently to see everything that happened.’ Thus towards the end of the war he watches as the increasingly brutal and sadistic Japanese guards and soldiers undress his mother and practically kick her to death: ‘My mother was the prettiest mother, at that moment I stopped loving her. From that moment I lost my way.’ The memories are continually set off against and seen from events of the present: his relationship to his ex-wife Liza.

In Sunken Red, Brouwer’s exploration of the experience of loss through estrangement and death lingers with the reader.

Publisher’s Weekly

This haunting novel is a cathartic experience.

New York Sunday Times

One of the most important novels in contemporary literature.

Die Zeit


Jeroen Brouwers

Jeroen Brouwers (b. 1940) grew up in Indonesia, worked as an editor at Manteau publishers in Brussels for twelve years and subsequently settled in the Netherlands.

His debut, the story collection Het mes op de keel (The Knife to the Throat, 1964), and the novel Joris Ockeloen en het wachten (Joris…

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Bezonken rood (1981). Fiction, 129 pages.



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