Lawyer to the Punks
A sublime evocation of a city, a period and a generation
A.F.Th van der Heijden’s books incorporate historical events and real locations. His main characters were born during the postwar period of reconstruction, as adults in an increasingly prosperous world they search for stimuli in an attempt to give form and content to their lives.
The universal quality of Van der Heijden’s prose makes him much more than the chronicler of a generation. His evocative descriptions, inspired versatility and ability to transform ordinary or shameful moments into sparkling literature combine to make him one of the Netherlands’ most eminent authors.
Advocaat van de hanen can be read as a novel in its own right. Set in mid-eighties Amsterdam, the book’s main character is the lawyer Ernst Quispel. His clients include a group of squatters, complete with the Mohican hairstyles of the day. Quispel is a binge drinker. An attentive and abstinent spouse for most of the year, he is afflicted by periods of compulsive heavy drinking. It is a form of ritual cleansing, atonement for his bland appearance and social success. In the age of the yuppie, pleasure has become tarnished. Quispel’s annual binges are an attempt to experience something of the rough side of life.
Life’s rough side suddenly confronts him in his work at a time when his marriage is on the rocks. Quispel is charged with investigating the case of a young squatter, Kiliaan Noppen, who has died under mysterious circumstances in a police cell. A national scandal brews and ultimately a police chief, the Mayor of Amsterdam and the Minister of Justice are forced to resign.
This conclusion is an expression of Van der Heijden’s dissatisfaction over the historical course of events surrounding the case of Hans Kok, the squatter who provided the model for Kiliaan Noppen. In reality the national and city govern-ments succeeded in largely hushing up Kok’s death. Advocaat van de hanen is a sublime evocation of a city, a period and a generation. In one book Van der Heijden has combined a chronicle, a thriller and a timeless novel.