Book

Tonke Dragt

The Towers of February

In 2004, Tonke Dragt won an award for the best children’s book of the previous five decades: De brief voor de koning (The Letter for the King, 1962). However, she received most fan mail for De torens van februari (The Towers of February, 1973), the incomparable sciencefiction story that according to Dragt herself is perhaps her ‘best’ book.

The book’s large number of fans were probably won over by its classic diary form. Dragt pretends, most convincingly, that she is only the bearer of a found manuscript, which she has presented in a readable form and provided with footnotes. This clever, carefully employed literary technique increases the illusion of authenticity, confusing and intriguing the reader and creating a sense of ‘this-really-might-all-be-true’. The exciting literary thought-experiment upon which the story hinges is the idea that other worlds might exist: mirrored worlds whose different time dimensions intersect every leap year between 29 February and 1 April, creating a moment when it is possible to step from one world into another, as long as the right word, which Dragt keeps secret, is spoken.

Fourteen-year-old Tom Wit succeeds in doing this, following the old scholar Thomas Alva. However, the consequence is a loss of memory. And so when he arrives in ‘world X’ at the beginning of this astonishing story, Tom doesn’t know who or where he is. In the vivid, familiar language of a diary, Tom provides an evocative four-part account of his quest to find his identity, the actual theme of the book, supplemented by notes added by Alva, newspaper clippings about his disappearance and a letter to his brother.

Helped by the diary entries that he wrote in our world, in mirror writing that he first has to decipher, Tom, who feels incomplete, manages to rediscover his past, together with Alva. Does Tom then decide to leave ‘world X’, where the failings of our society appear not to exist? Or does he choose for the here and now of ‘world X’ and for Téja, his great love? Although Dragt presents her speculations in a postscript, these questions remain unanswered. Because ‘the correct answer’ and ‘the truth’ don’t exist – as anyone who reads the wonderful, philosophical De torens van februari will wholeheartedly agree.

By Mirjam Noorduijn

The story has the compelling tension that Tonke Dragt is so good at creating. The reader gropes around in the unfamiliar darkness, but, step by step, this strange world becomes more clear.

Kiosk

Read this exceptional classic and allow yourself to be put on the wrong track time and again.

Lemniscaatkrant

Translations

Tonke Dragt

Tonke Dragt, born in Batavia in 1930, writes adventure books that explore the boundaries of space and time. As a child, Dragt found herself in a Japanese concentration camp. Inspired by Jules Verne, Dragt wrote her first ‘book’ while in captivity. In 1948, back in the Netherlands, Dragt became…

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Details

De torens van februari (1973). Children's books, 201 pages.

Age: 10+

Publisher

Lemniscaat

Vijverlaan 48
NL - 3062 HL Rotterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 10 206 29 29
Fax: +31 10 414 15 60

E-mail:
info@lemniscaat.nl
Website:
http://www.lemniscaat.nl

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