Not a Day Went By
Er ging geen dag voorbij (Not a Day Went By, 1984) is a collection of forty-nine animal stories about the squirrel, the ant, the cricket, the elephant, the bear, the whale and the other creatures who feel at home in surroundings where woodland, river, mountain, desert and sea lie close together.
The animals are all the same size and there’s only one of each kind. The stories are short and exceptionally imaginative and poetic. The book has a number of recurring themes. Squirrel travels a lot; he’s always looking for something, but he doesn’t know what.
‘Is this the other side?’ asks the squirrel after swimming across the great lake. ‘No, that’s the other side, where you’ve just come from.’
So he quickly swims back to the other side! The story in which the giraffe invites him to go on a voyage of discovery is wonderful.
‘To discover what?’ asks the squirrel. ‘Well, if I knew that, it wouldn’t be a voyage of discovery any more, would it?’
These stories are little gems that are reminiscent of the philosophical discussions between Pooh and Piglet. Time is also an important theme in Squirrel’s life. He concludes most poetically:
‘I am only now. I have never been later and I shall never be before.’
Some of the animal stories are very melancholic ones. When the ant takes the squirrel’s belongings on his back to help him move house, he slips and everything falls into the depths:
‘Oh,’ said the ant. ‘Yes,’ said the squirrel, with tears in his eyes, as he saw his chair take a swan dive over the river before disappearing into the water.’
Not one word too many and every word in its place! These are funny and touching stories full of absurd situations and simple profundities, fascinating because of Tellegen’s concise use of words and the absence of explanations. And all of this is beautifully complemented by the pen drawings of Jan Jutte.
By Dorine Louwerens