The Peach of Immortality
Jan Wolkers wrote the way he painted, with visual punch. He displayed great nerve in the way he set up a story, produced dialogue and situations that are vivid and original, and created fascinating, colourful characters. Above all Wolkers was master of the arresting metaphor, the image that leaves a lasting impression long after the story is over. The Peach of Immortality is just such an image.
The protagonist of the novel, former resistance fighter Ruwiel, sees a peach on a painter’s canvas. The colour yellow crops up all through the book and ultimately the peach represents Ruwiel’s powerful spirit.
The entire novel takes place in the course of a single day, 5 May, the date on which the Netherlands celebrates liberation from the Germans at the end of World War II. Gradually Ruwiel’s own tragedy becomes clear, a man whose life, like his wife’s, has lost all meaning since the war ended, a war in which they both acted heroically. The only real love that Ruwiel can still muster is for his dog, which increasingly takes the place of his bedridden wife. With cold tripe for the dog pressed to his heart, he roams about all day, until he too collapses.
Not exactly a cheerful novel, but one that arouses intense compassion and maintains its grip on the reader until the old hero’s final breath.