Intelligent and poetic
Set in Amsterdam during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the novel opens with the protagonist’s attempted suicide after his wife, Zita, leaves him for an Italian. We follow Inni Wintrop as he wanders the streets of Amsterdam alone, looking for meaning in the ‘wonderful, empty universe’. Along the way he happens to encounter Arnold Taads and his estranged son, Philip. All three characters have lost their faith in God and are attempting to create their own meaning in life through rituals. Arnold Taads is rigidly tied to time. ‘Time,’ Inni learns, ‘was the father of all things in Arnold Taad’s life’.
Philip Taads, on the other hand, attempts to escape time through Zen-like rituals. As for Inni, ‘women had become his religion, the centre, the essence of everything, the great cartwheel on which the world turned’.
Intelligent and poetic, Rituals is ultimately an existential novel in which the three main characters ask themselves questions about freedom, fear, disgust and estrangement. It is also a parable about the importance of learning to ride the unpredictable waves of life in a universe devoid of God.