Harm de Jonge excels in stories about special boyhood friendships. With Josja Pruis he has surpassed himself in the genre. This time the story is set in an insignificant seaport town in the year 1956. The central figure is Homme Prins, who has experienced little more exciting than being secretly in love with the beautiful Ada Breugel, as is his friend Lubbe.
But then one day a new boy appears at school. Josja Pruis wears an army jacket with shiny buttons. He tells Homme and Lubbe that he’s actually a Siamese twin. ‘You know: two people who have only two legs between the two of them or something like that.’ With Josja you can’t see anything of the Siamese twin on the outside, because it’s in his head. There’s a partition dividing his brain in two. One half is called Josja, the other half Kai. This starts Homme thinking. With Lubbe, he talks about football and about Ada. With Josja, it’s suddenly about things he’s never heard of before.
Everything changes with Josja’s arrival; events in this sleepy little town suddenly gain momentum. A story on three levels develops in short chapters: the account of Josja’s stay in this little town, the notes Josja makes in his redmarbled book, and the narrative present, in which Homme and Ada look back on events – because when things take a dramatic turn Josja disappears just as quickly as he arrived.
Harm de Jonge succeeds in capturing in few words a story about friendship, being in love, insanity and death, without the tale ever becoming too heavy. Josja Pruis is really tense in parts, but first and foremost it is a book that is enchanting and melancholy. A story that stays in your memory for a long time with a strangely beautiful resonance.
By Joukje Akveld