Book

Esther Gerritsen

Thirst

A pitch-black filmic comedy about a destructive mother-daughter relationship

Esther Gerritsen excels at writing fast, humorous dialogue, which she uses to capture the lack of understanding between people, the ways they deliber­ately talk at cross purposes so as to edge around each other’s problems. Thirst is a harrowing story about the impossibility of loving and truly making contact with others, written so drily and pointedly that you regularly laugh out loud as you read.

At the start of the novel, Elisabeth and her adult daughter Coco happen upon each other in the city, on opposite sides of the street. The accidental nature of their meeting is indicative of their estrange­ment. Elisabeth divorced Coco’s father long ago, and contact with her daughter has been scant ever since. She takes the opportunity to share some bad news; she has terminal cancer and not long to live.

It is a message her daughter receives with a mixture of disbelief and indiffer­ence. They part rather uneasily (‘We must ring each other. We’ll ring. Right? Shall we ring?’). The next moment, the mother’s bicycle wheel gets caught in the tram rails before she wobbles off to the hairdresser’s, with whom she has the same short conversations every time, again about her illness.

We follow the lives of mother and daughter by turns. Both are conscious of futility and mortality, and they do not become close even after Coco decides to move in with her mother. Nowhere do we read in so many words that they are unhappy, but it is clear from everything they experience. Coco’s relationship with her egotistical lover, the chatter at the hairdresser’s, a man who sings John Denver lyrics phonetically and an awk­ward meal at a Chinese restaurant with Coco’s stepmother – all are shrouded in a permanent haze of melancholy and alienation.

Thirst is an animatedly written, tragi­comic novel in which the author is not afraid of putting her finger on the most painful places, whether they have to do with alcoholism, obesity or loveless sex. Elisabeth finds it increasingly hard to lie to her daughter to keep up appearances, and her daughter reconciles herself to her fate: ‘Sometimes you start doing some­thing even when you know it will never be enough.’

A writing style that grabs you by the throat: clear, rhythmical, humorous and sometimes deeply affecting in its rendition of the characters’ trains of thought.

de Volkskrant

Interpersonal communication is an inexhaustible theme, which she has so far managed to develop with great dramatic and indeed great comic ingenuity.

NRC Handelsblad

Not only in her choice of subjects but also in her feeling for style, Gerritsen is one of a kind.

Jury Frans Kellendonk prize 2014

Translations

Esther Gerritsen

Since her 2000 debut with Bevoorrecht bewustzijn (Privileged Consciousness), Esther Gerritsen (b. 1972) has been considered one of the best authors in the Netherlands. In 2005 she was awarded the Dif/BGN prize for her second novel Normale dagen (Ordinary Days, 2005). Superduif (Superpigeon, 2010)…

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Details

Dorst (2012). Fiction, 224 pages.
Words: 41,000

A sample can be read at wordswithoutborders.org

Publisher

De Geus

Oude Vest 9
NL - 4811 HR Breda
Netherlands
Tel: +31 76 522 81 51
Fax: +31 76 522 25 99

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

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