Rob van Essen has won the prestigious Libris Literature Prize 2019 for his novel The Good Son (Atlas Contact). The prize is awarded annually to the best Dutch literary fiction title of the previous year, and consists of 50,000 euros and a bronze medal. The award ceremony was traditionally broadcast live in Nieuwsuur.
“With all its bizarre thoughts, grotesque twists, story lines and layers, Van Essen’s masterpiece shows and makes us feel what it means to live in this day and age, with its abundance of leisure and luxury, robots and computers, a time in which everything and everyone is constantly monitored and, where necessary, corrected from above,” the jury praised The Good Son.
Rob van Essen
Rob van Essen (b. 1963) is an established Dutch writer and translator. He is also a reviewer of English-language literature for NRC Handelsblad. His debut, Reddend zwemmen, was released in 1996. His style is characterized by a dry but telling sense of humour, with now and then a laconic undertone.
The Good Son
The Good Son is a novel about two men on a quest for salvation and obscurity, who are assisted by ironic robots and chatty self-driving cars. This critically acclaimed novel is not only a compelling account of a journey through a labyrinth of strange events, it’s also a surprising autobiographical tale of a son taking stock of his life after his mother’s death.
The protagonist’s alienation has a profound effect on the reader of this rich, wonderful book.
The Good Son is written from a fundamental and recognizable feeling of displacement. What exactly has changed remains unclear, but that the civilization that was supposed to protect us from ignorance, violence, and the lust for power is rapidly disappearing (see Trump, Brexit, etc.) is an irrefutable fact.
His work reminds us of that of Murakami and Paul Auster, and sometimes of James Bond with all its bizarre fantasies, conspiracies, self-running backpacks, sex-supplying cars and the all-levelling basic income. A novel of ideas, about life, about art. Very special.